When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling on the Arizona immigration law last week, public scrutiny of the decision was short-lived because it was eclipsed by the subsequent ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
But the ruling on Arizona law was truly significant for several reasons, not the least of which is that multiple states have passed laws relating to immigration with provisions similar to that in the Arizona law.
So what did the Supreme Court really do?
First, all eight of the voting Justices (Judge Elena Kagan recused herself) agreed to uphold that portion of the law allowing police to inquire about the immigration status of a detained individual if there is reasonable suspicion that they are in the country illegally. They cited the fact that federal law requires aliens aged 14 and older to register with the U.S. government and carry registration papers if they are in the U.S. for more than 30 days.
However, the court was quick to add that “racial profiling” by police would not be tolerated, so local law enforcement must be very careful to prescribe policies and procedures that will insure non-prejudicial action in this regard.
Furthermore, the court indicated that local law enforcement would have to rely on the federal government to impose any immigration violation punishment, such as deportation. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security has made it clear that it will limit responses to local law enforcement about immigration status, sticking to the administration’s own priorities of deporting illegal immigrants who face more serious warrants on other criminal issues.
Second, the court struck down, by a 5 to 3 vote, provisions of the law that made it a state crime for illegal aliens to seek work or hold a job, indicating that this was part of the exclusive province of the federal government. This ruling could affect states with similar provisions, such as provisions for punishment of employers that hire illegal workers or that fail to use E-verify for hiring of workers.
Third, the court struck down by 5-3 vote a provision that made it a violation of state law for illegal aliens not to have federal registration cards in their possession.
If states with similar laws do not immediately revise those laws to be consistent with the Supreme Court’s ruling, there could be more litigation coming in the next term.
We generally do not handle deportation matters, but if you are in need of legal assistance with another immigration matter, do not hesitate to contact our office at (847) 564-0712 to speak with a qualified attorney. You can also check out our immigration law Website for more information about how we might assist you.