Supreme Court Likely to Uphold Immigration Status Check

The Supreme Court heard oral argument in Arizona v. United States where the Court must decide whether federal law preempts four provisions of Arizona’s immigration law. 

Supreme Court reporters and watchers seem to agree the Supreme Court will uphold the portion of Arizona’s law requiring police to check the immigration status of anyone stopped or arrested when there is “reasonable suspicion” the person is here unlawfully.  As Justice Roberts pointed out, if the federal government does not want to pursue deporting someone, it does not have to.   But a number of Justices seemed concerned about the amount of time it would take to confirm someone’s immigration status.

SCOTUS blog’s Tom Goldstein predicts a possible unanimous ruling in favor of Arizona on the above issue and on the issue of whether immigrants can be arrested without a warrant if there is probable cause to believe they have committed a removable offense.   

Because the Court focused so much of its time on the issue of police checking immigration status, reporters and court watchers seem less certain about the fate of the law’s provisions making it a state crime for non-citizens to fail to carry documents proving they are in the U.S. lawfully or for those in the U.S. unlawfully to seek work or hold a job.  A number of liberal and conservative Justices seemed skeptical of these provisions.

Everyone agrees Justice Scalia is Arizona’s most staunch supporter.  The Wall Street Journal blog described Kennedy as “not the easiest to read on the bench today.” 

Justice Kagan recused herself in this case.  If the Court votes 4-4 on any issue, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling (against Arizona on all provisions) will stand.

According to NPR, George Washington Law Professor Jonathan Turley calls this Supreme Court term “the most significant term in the history of the court in defining federalism.” 

But which way will the Court go in this case and the Affordable Care Act case?  Stay tuned...all will be revealed by the last week of June.

Link to other reporting and analysis of the oral argument at SCOTUS blog