As opening arguments began on Arizona's immigration law today, Chief Justice John Roberts interrupted to say that “no part of your argument has to do with racial profiling.”
U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. agreed, and said Arizona’s law should be struck down because it conflicts with the federal government’s “exclusive” power of immigration.
Several Supreme Court justices on Wednesday voiced support for Arizona's effort to crack down on illegal immigration, appearing to reject Obama administration arguments that the federal government has sole responsibility for dealing with people who illegally enter the United States.
After arguments today some justices are likely to side with Arizona on key parts of the immigration law in contrast to the Obama administration’s claim that the state overreached its authority by requiring the police to verify immigration status of people who are suspected of being in the country illegally.
However, during oral arguments Wednesday, the court’s liberal justices and some of its conservatives expressed concern that holding people who have been arrested until a check of their immigration status is complete could violate their rights by prolonging their detention.
Conservative Justicewent further, sharply questioning Verrilli about whether a state has the ability to “defend its borders.”
Justicetold Verrilli that the government’s argument that “systematic enforcement” might violate federal law was “not selling.”
Verrilli said the structural problem with Arizona’s far-reaching law is that its goal of “attrition through enforcement” would simply move the problem of illegal immigration from one state to its neighbor. “That’s something that Arizona cannot do,” he said.
Presently conservative justices have the majority on the court and intimated today that the states do, in fact, have significant latitude to adopt laws that discourage illegal immigrants from moving to and staying in the U.S..
Justice, who casts the deciding vote in many cases, referred to the "social and economic disruption" that states endure as a result of a flood of illegal immigrants and suggested that states such as Arizona have authority to act.
No mention was made of the economic damage done to states when there is insufficient work force to harvest crops. In Alabama it is estimated that their anti-immigration law costs the state 2.3 billion dollars and cost 70,000 jobs per year.
A decision for Arizona law would be a setback for President, who has criticized it and has vowed to push for immigration legislation if re-elected on November 6. A ruling against Arizona would be a blow to Republican presidential candidate , who has said the government should drop its challenge to the law.
Senator Charles Schumer has vowed that if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the law, he will introduce legislation making it clear that Congress “does not intend” to allow states to develop their own immigration policies.
Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself because of her previous work in the Obama Administration could be a conflict of interest. Chief Justice John Roberts, who also could play a key role in deciding the case, spurned the administration's arguments that the Arizona law conflicted with the federal system and deemed it "an effort to help you enforce federal law."
The four conservative justices, Roberts, Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, and, all asked tough questions of the administration's lawyer. Fellow conservative Justice did not ask any questions but, based on past votes, is expected to support the Arizona law.
What will happen if the Supreme Court rules for Arizona?
Effect on Arizona
If the Court finds federal law not to preempt any or all of the provisions, the preliminary injunction will be lifted and the legal challenge to those provisions will be effectively over. Importantly, however, even if the Court allows the contested provisions to go into effect, future litigants may still challenge how the law is applied on a case‐by‐case basis. For example, even if Arizona law enforcement officers have the authority to investigate the immigration status of foreign nationals they stop in public, persons who are excessively detained during such investigations may bring individual challenges to the manner in which that authority is exercised.
In addition, a Supreme Court ruling in favor of Arizona would not forestall existing challenges to SB 1070 by private individuals and organizations….
Effect on other States
The effect of the Court’s ruling on other states with copycat laws—including Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah—will depend on the scope of the decision. If provisions of SB 1070 are found to be preempted under federal law, identical provisions of other state laws will also be prevented from going into effect. However, copycat laws in other states contain provisions that are not before the Supreme Court in this case. For example, the decision will not definitively resolve the legality of the provision of Alabama HB 56 that requires school administrators to ascertain the immigration status of newly enrolling students.
Supreme Court ruling is not expected until late June this year.