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Supreme Court hands down its ruling on Arizona's state immigration law

The United States Supreme Court handed down its long-awaited ruling on state immigration laws. People all across the country have been waiting for the ruling, including people in Florida. The Florida legislature considered several similar measures, especially last year. However, Florida lawmakers have not passed any similar measures. The high court upheld a portion of Arizona's state immigration law, while finding other parts unconstitutional under the doctrine of preemption.

Eight justices unanimously upheld the provision of Arizona's highly watched state immigration law that requires local police officers in that state to check the immigration status of people they stop. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the opinion of the court that the mandatory checks into immigration status by local law enforcement do not interfere with the federal government's immigration laws.

However, the justices split on other provisions of the state immigration law. A majority of the court struck down three provisions of the state immigration law that the majority held were preempted by federal immigration laws.

The three portions that the court found unconstitutional include the provision that made it a state crime for an undocumented immigrant to work, or look for a job, in Arizona. The Supreme Court further struck down provisions of the state law that authorized state and local officers in Arizona to arrest people without obtaining a warrant based upon probable cause that the person is an undocumented immigrant, and the provision that required immigrants to register with federal authorities.

Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority of the court that Arizona "may not pursue policies that undermine federal law." The majority found that the three provisions did undermine federal immigration law. The court ruled that local and state agencies could cooperate with the federal government to enforce immigration, but the three provisions went too far and acted to defeat "any need for real cooperation" between state and federal officials.

Associate Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the decision. She had recused herself from the case after having served as a solicitor general for the Obama administration.


  • MSNBC, "High court strikes down key parts of Arizona immigration law," Tom Curry, June 25, 2012
  • Reuters, "High Court upholds key part of Arizona immigration law," James Vicini and Jonathan Stempel, June 25, 2012

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