In a judicial session that will already be considering Obamacare’s constitutionality and Texas’s redistricting efforts, the Supreme Court has announced that it will be considering the constitutionality of Arizona’s controversial immigration law. Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona had asked the court to hear the case after the 9th Circuit of Appeals found several pieces of the law unconstitutional in a challenge from the Department of Justice. A ruling is expected in summer 2012 at the height of the presidential campaigning season.
The law, SB 1070, passed the Arizona legislature in 2010 and gave the state several tools to address the federal government’s failure to secure the southern US border. State law enforcement officers are directed to make an attempt to confirm an individual’s immigration status during lawful stops, detentions, or arrests, but only if there is “reasonable suspicion.” The federal government sued, claiming that handling immigration issues is not something states can constitutionally address. Various civil rights and immigration groups have sued as well, alleging the provisions of the law amount to racial discrimination. Interestingly, Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself from the case, presumably because she worked on the issue as President Obama’s Solicitor General.
The ruling will have broad implications beyond Arizona. The federal government is currently pursuing suits against Utah, South Carolina, and Alabama for those states’ immigration laws, and a Supreme Court ruling against Arizona could shut off state attempts to address the problem, including possible attempts in North Carolina. A North Carolina General Assembly House Committee created to consider changes is laws regard illegal immigration met last week, although it is unclear what kind of reform efforts are being considered, or if there is sufficient support in the Legislature or from Governor Perdue for any changes. Anti-illegal immigration activists have pushed for the adoption of measures similar to Arizona’s.