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Slam the Gavel Blog

Supreme Court Splits the Baby on Immigration Law

Posted by Matthew J. Hornsby on June 26, 2012 at 3:05 PM

          In a case that will have a significant impact on a similar Alabama law, the Supreme Court has partially upheld the controversial Arizona immigration law enacted in 2010 to combat the influx of illegal aliens in the state.


          The Supreme Court actually struck down 3 of the 4 provisions at issue, however the remaining provision is perhaps the most important. That provision, known as the “show me your papers” provision, requires Arizona police officers making any stop, detention, or arrest to make efforts to verify the suspect’s immigration status, if the officer has reasonable suspicion that the person is illegally in the United States. So for example, if a person (whether he be named Jose, Jamaal, or John) is stopped for speeding or arrested for vandalism, and the officer has reasonable suspicion (less concrete than both “probable cause” and “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the person is illegally in the United States, the officer is required to check into their immigration status, either by asking for proof of citizenship, or checking with the Feds (ICE). Opponents of the law have called this portion legislative racism, while supporters have called it a necessary course of action after the Federal government has neglected immigration enforcement for decades.


          The Obama administration (after weeks of political turmoil) and like-minded liberals are claiming a victory because of the provisions that were overturned. The AZ governor and other conservatives are claiming a victory because of the Court’s approval of the “show me your papers” provision. The truth is, neither side will be very happy with the result, as the left will cry foul over the possibility of racial profiling with the “show me your papers” provision, while the right will long for the banned provisions that would have enabled the state and local governments to punish illegal immigrants located within the state.


          But in any event, by allowing the “show me your papers” provision of the AZ law to stand, the Supreme Court is basically saying that that portion of the law is not unconstitutional on its face, and that the state has a right to administer the law and see how it plays out. There will certainly be challenges to the methods used by the police officers and state officials so we may see this law, as well as a similar law enacted in here in Alabama in front of the Court again, so the Court can rule on the specific manner in which the states are carrying out the law. But until that time, you will see both sides spin the latest Supreme Court decision in the light most favorable to them, in the ever-present battle for political capital heading into the election this fall.

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