The Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments on Arizona v. the United States

The Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments Wednesday on Arizona’s controversial immigration law, Arizona SB 1070, which gives Arizona state law enforcement authorities the ability to question the immigration status of a person stopped, arrested, or detained if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the United States illegally. The question before the Court is whether or not federal immigration laws preclude Arizona, or any other state, from enacting and enforcing cooperative immigration laws such as SB 1070. Representatives from the state of Arizona argue that the law enables the state to utilize its right to protect its own borders. Opponents of the law argue that the state is infringing upon the rights and responsibilities of the federal government to make and enforce immigration policy.

The Court will examine four sections of the law that have been prevented from taking effect by an injunction issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The enjoined sections: (1) allow state law enforcement officials to ask anyone to verify their immigration status after a stop, arrest, or detention if there is “reasonable suspicion” that the person is unlawfully present in this country; (2) allow state law enforcement officials to arrest individuals without a warrant if there is probable cause to suggest that the person has done something that would make him or her removable from the United States; (3) make it a state crime for a person to be unlawfully present in the United States; and (4) make it a state crime for anyone who is not lawfully present in the U.S. to seek employment in this country.

While oral arguments were presented before eight of the nine justices Wednesday (Justice Elena Kagan removed herself from the proceedings due to a conflict of interest), the Court will not release its decision in Arizona v. the United States for several months. However it is decided, this case will set an important precedent for U.S. immigration law and is likely have a great impact on the future of immigration enforcement in the United States.