Court considers state/federal lines of authority in immigration law
Published: April 25, 2012
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Arizona's attempt to manage its population of undocumented immigrants by stepping into enforcement of federal laws led the Supreme Court April 25 to try to parse where the lines lie between state and federal authority. During oral arguments in the case Arizona v. United States, questions from the justices focused largely on sections of the 2010 law that require law enforcement officers to investigate the immigration status of anyone they stop for any reason if the officer suspects the person might not be in the country legally. Central to the case being made in oral arguments by Arizona's attorney, former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, was his repeated insistence that the state is not seeking to do anything more than enforce federal laws that the U.S. government isn't managing. He argued that the law provides only for possible immigration law violators to be held to give the federal government the chance to step in and prosecute them. "There is no interference with enforcement priorities by simply giving the federal government information on which to bring their enforcement priorities to bear," Clement said. Clement also suggested that the provision making it a state crime to seek work without government authorization was no more than an extension of what Congress did in imposing sanctions on employers who hire undocumented workers. Meanwhile, outside the court, a multi-day prayer vigil sponsored by faith-based organizations evolved into a news conference, then into a rally on the sidewalk and a protest walk around the court building. Four provisions of the law were challenged by the Obama administration, under the argument that immigration laws and enforcement are the purview of the federal government and that Arizona's law, S.B. 1070, takes that federal authority unto itself. All four challenged provisions have been blocked pending court review.
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