Arizona may immediately start checking a person's immigration status during traffic stops. That was the ruling handed down by the US Supreme Court on Monday. But the court stopped short of giving the state of Arizona a big win. It struck down every other provision of the state's tough immigration laws, ruling immigration enforcement is the responsibility of the federal government, and states may not make their own laws that trump federal ones in this area.
The court struck down other parts of the Arizona law, including provisions that made it against the law for illegal immigrants to seek employment, and a separate portion that made it a crime for illegal immigrants to fail to carry documentation.
The justices were divided. The five considered liberal or moderate voted to strike down most of the provisions, while the three considered conservative voted to uphold the entire law. In the opinion written and released by the court, Justice Antony Kennedy wrote that "Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the State may not pursue policies that undermine federal law." The court also wrote that "power to determine immigration policy is well-settled."
The justices allowed the traffic checks because they said state and local authorities could only determine that someone was in the country illegally, and then notify federal authorities who could then determine whether to arrest people found to be in the country illegally.
President Obama instructed the Justice Department to sue the state of Arizona when its lawmakers passed SB1070. A federal judge then blocked the state from implementing it.
A number of lawsuits are reportedly being prepared to try to fight the "papers please" portion of the law that the Supreme Court upheld, including one that is attempting to gain a class action status so thousands of people can join in.
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