By Sam Baker and Jonathan Easley – 06/25/12 10:40 AM ET
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday tossed out most of Arizona’s controversial immigration law.
The court upheld the most controversial part of the law, which allows law enforcement officials to verify a person’s legal status when they’re stopped on suspicion of committing a separate offense.
But the court sided with the Obama administration on three of the four specific challenges, and said the “show me your papers” section could be challenged again when it is implemented.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, reading the majority opinion from the bench, said the requirement could not be invalidated now because the state has not have a chance to implement it. There is therefore no clear evidence that it conflicts with federal law, Kennedy said.
Although detaining people solely to check their immigration status would “raise constitutional concerns,” he said, the requirement “could be read to avoid these concerns.”
“Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration … but the State may not pursue policies that undermine federal law,” the majority opinion states.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor signed on to Kennedy’s decision.
Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito concurred in part and dissented in part.
Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case because she worked on immigration matters during her time as solicitor general.
The decision follows the Obama administration’s lawsuit against the Arizona Legislature over provisions of the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, known as SB 1070, arguing that immigration law is foreign policy and therefore under federal, rather than state, jurisdiction.
Arizona shares a 370-mile border with Mexico, and the defense argued that the measure was necessary to protect the state because it has an outsized burden in dealing with illegal immigration.
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