Supreme Court upholds key part of Arizona immigration law

The Supreme Court upheld a key part of Arizona’s tough anti-illegal immigration law in a 5-3 decision on Monday that allows police officers to ask about immigration status during stops. That part of the law, which never went into effect because of court challenges, will now immediately be enforced in Arizona.

Other parts of the law, including a provision that made it a state crime for illegal immigrants to seek work, will remain blocked. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s swing vote, wrote the opinion, and was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Conservative Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas partially dissented, saying the entire law should have been upheld.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has issued a statement noting today’s ruling is a victory for the rule of law:

“Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is a victory for the rule of law. It is also a victory for the 10th Amendment and all Americans who believe in the inherent right and responsibility of states to defend their citizens. After more than two years of legal challenges, the heart of SB 1070 can now be implemented in accordance with the U.S. Constitution.”

What the ruling means:

The justices said Arizona’s police can stop, question and briefly detain immigrants if officers have reason to believe they are in the country illegally. This was seen as a key part of the state’s law.

But the justices said the police have limited authority. They must check with federal immigration agents before deciding to hold the suspects.

The court’s decision gives states such as Arizona a limited role in enforcing the laws against illegal immigrants. Their police can notify federal agents if they have a suspect in custody, but they cannot keep them in a county jail on state charges, they would have to get U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to take over from there/

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