Supreme Court skeptical of striking down Arizona immigration law
By David Savage
9:13 AM PDT, April 25, 2012 - Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court justices, hearing arguments Wednesday over
Arizonafs tough immigration law, suggested they were inclined to uphold parts of
the statefs law but may block other parts.
The Obama administration lawyer who wanted the entire law struck down ran
into skeptical questions from most of the justices, who said they saw no problem
with requiring police officers to check the immigration status of people who are
But the justices also said they were troubled by parts of the Arizona law
that made it a state crime for illegal immigrants to not carry documents or seek
work. The stop-and-arrest provision has been the most contested part of the
Before U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. could deliver his opening
comments, chief justice John Roberts in an unusual move interrupted to say that
gno part of your argument has to do with racial or ethnic profiling.h
Verrilli agreed and said Arizonafs law should be struck down because it
conflicts with the federal governmentfs gexclusiveh power of immigration.
But he ran into a barrage of skeptical questions, including from some of the
courtfs liberals. Justice Stephen Breyer said he did not see why Arizonafs
police would violate federal immigration law if they simply notified federal
agents they had a possible illegal immigrant in custody. Breyer said he would be
concerned only if the state said it could arrest and jail illegal aliens on its
Near the end of the argument, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, an Obama appointee,
advised Verrilli he needed a stronger argument than the ones he delivered. His
argument gis not selling very well,h she commented.
But the questions also suggested the court may hand down a split decision.
Most of the justices, including Roberts, said they were troubled by two
parts of the Arizona law. One would make it a state crime for aliens not to
carry documents. A second would make it a state crime for illegal aliens to look
Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy said they appear to go beyond federal law
and therefore could be blocked as clashing with federal law.
But the main provision at issue was the requirement that Arizonafs police
officers contact federal officials and check the immigration status of anyone
who is lawfully stopped and appears to be an illegal immigrant.
A federal judge in Phoenix and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
blocked that provision on the grounds that it would gave state officials the
power to enforce federal immigration law.
Roberts and most of the justices said they disagreed with that
gIt doesnft require you to remove one more alien,h the chief justice told
Verrilli. Federal officials would be free to release anyone whom they decided
against holding, he said.
David.Savage@latimes.comOriginal source: Supreme Court skeptical of striking down Arizona immigration
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