According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the Supreme Court will soon decide whether Arizona specifically and other states, more generally, are allowed to target illegal immigrants for arrest.
With this announcement comes yet another highly political issue the Court has decided to weigh in on. This, in conjunction with President Obama’s signature health care law and a voting rights case in Texas are intensely partisan debates that the justices will issue an opinion on in the coming year.
Clarifying the limits of state and federal authority will be foremost in the immigration case, as well as in the dispute over the health care law. In another highly partisan dispute, the court on Friday agreed to rule on a Texas congressional remapping that figured to give Republicans four more seats in the House of Representatives. The Obama administration’s lawyers contend that the plan would deny fair representation to the state’s growing Latino population.
The Court’s ultimate decision on the Arizona case will decide the fate of other laws in states such as Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah.
The issue before the justices is whether states may enforce the immigration laws on their own, or instead defer to the federal government with regard to immigration policy.
The U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to set a “uniform rule of naturalization,” and this has been understood to mean the federal government decides who may enter or stay in the country. However, the Court has not ruled on just how broad this grant of authority is and, as a result, questions about the extent of states’ authority on the subject remain.
The new case began in July 2010 when Obama administration lawyers filed suit in Phoenix and argued Arizona had gone exceeded its authority by enlisting police to enforce the stringent immigration law. Under SB 1070, the Arizona immigration law, police are required to check the immigration status of people they lawfully stop and suspect of being in the country illegally. The law also makes illegal immigration a state crime. U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton blocked much of the law from taking effect, and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld her decision.
The court’s announcement said Justice Elena Kagan had stepped aside in the case, creating the possibility of a 4-4 split. A tie vote would affirm the 9th Circuit Court’s decision, giving a win to the Obama administration and a defeat to Arizona and like-minded states.
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