Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Justices Leaning to Back Part of Ariz. Law Immigrant Status Checks Are at Issue

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Justices Leaning to Back Part of Ariz. Law Immigrant Status Checks Are at Issue

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Justices across the ideological spectrum appeared inclined Wednesday to uphold a controversial part of Arizona's aggressive 2010 immigration law, based on their questions at a Supreme Court argument.

"You can see it's not selling very well," Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a member of the court's liberal wing and its first Hispanic justice, told Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., referring to a central part of his argument against the measure.

Mr. Verrilli, representing the federal government, had urged the court to strike down a provision requiring state law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of people they stop who they suspect are not lawfully present in the United States.

It was harder to read the court's attitude toward three other provisions of the law at issue, including one that makes it a crime for illegal immigrants to work. The court's ruling, expected by June, may thus be a split decision that upholds parts of the law and strikes down others.

A ruling to uphold the law would be a victory for conservatives who have pressed for tough measures to stem illegal immigration, including ones patterned after the Arizona law in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah. President Barack Obama has criticized the Arizona law, calling it a threat to "basic notions of fairness."

Should the court uphold any part of the law, immigration groups are likely to challenge it, based on an argument that the court was not considering Wednesday -- that the law discriminates on the basis of race and ethnic background.

Indeed, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. signaled that the court was not closing the door on such a challenge, making clear that the case, like last month's arguments on Mr. Obama's health care law, was about allocation of state and federal power. "No part of your argument has to do with racial or ethnic profiling, does it?" he asked Mr. Verrilli, who agreed.

Wednesday's argument, the last of the term, was a rematch between the main lawyers in the health care case. Paul Clement, who argued for the 26 states challenging the health care law, represented Arizona. Mr. Verrilli again represented the federal government. In an unusual move, Chief Justice Roberts allowed the argument to go 20 minutes longer than the usual hour.

The two lawyers presented sharply contrasting accounts of what the Arizona law meant to achieve.

Mr. Clement said the state was making an effort to address a crisis with a law that complemented U.S. immigration policy. "Arizona borrowed the federal standards as its own," he said, adding that the state was simply being more assertive in enforcing federal law than the federal government. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.