The US Supreme Court turned aside an appeal on Monday from the
state of Alabama asking the high court to examine whether state
governments can pass laws making it illegal to harbor or smuggle
illegal immigrants within a state's borders.
The court action came without comment from the justices. The
order noted that Justice Antonin Scalia dissented from the court's
decision not to hear the case.
The denial comes as Congress and the White House are working
toward an immigration reform package.
At issue in Alabama v. US (12-884), was an Alabama statute that
sought to echo the requirements of federal immigration laws that
outlaw similar activities.
It was patterned on a controversial immigration law passed in
Arizona in 2010 aimed at discouraging illegal immigrants from coming
to or remaining in Arizona.
While Alabama argued that its statute was substantively different
from those portions of Arizona's law previously struck down by the
Supreme Court, the justices' refusal to take the case lets stand an
appellate court ruling that the Alabama law was preempted by federal
Eight other states have similar laws that seek to regulate
activities related to the presence of illegal immigrants within
state borders. They were adopted in an attempt to compensate for
what state officials viewed as lax or ineffective enforcement of US
immigration laws by the federal government.
Like it did regarding Arizona's SB 1070, the Obama administration
opposed the Alabama law and successfully sued the state in federal
court to prevent it from enforcing any statute that might touch on
issues involving illegal immigrants.
That posture toward the states set the stage for a constitutional
confrontation pitting the authority of the national government to
set immigration enforcement priorities against the power of the
states to protect state residents within their own borders.
The Obama administration's crackdown against aggressive state
immigration laws also dove-tailed with a political strategy in the
president's reelection campaign. Candidate Obama used the state-
federal disputes and the promise of a kinder, gentler immigration
posture by his administration to appeal to Latino voters.
(It worked. In November, the president received 71 percent of the
Last June, the Supreme Court invalidated three sections of
Arizona's SB 1070, saying they were preempted by federal immigration
law. But the justices also upheld the law's controversial
centerpiece - the "show-me-your-papers" provision that ordered
police to check the immigration status of anyone they had reason to
suspect were in the US without authorization.
The question in the Alabama case was whether Alabama's anti-
harboring statute is preempted by federal immigration laws and the
more forgiving immigration enforcement priorities of the Obama
In general, laws passed by Congress are the supreme law of the
land and thus preempt state laws that either intrude into an area of
federal power or conflict with an existing federal statute.
The portion of the Alabama law that was being appealed involved
state prohibitions on harboring, inducing the arrival, or
transporting illegal immigrants in Alabama.
"These provisions are markedly different from the ones this court
invalidated in [the Arizona case]," Alabama Solicitor General John
Neiman wrote in his brief to the court. …