Get Ready for Battle: Supreme Court Will Take Up SB 1070

The fight that both sides of the immigration debate have been itching for has finally arrived.

By Julianne Hing Dec 12, 2011

The fight that both sides of the immigration debate have been itching for has finally arrived. The Supreme Court has decided to examine Arizona’s SB 1070, CBS reported.

The Supreme Court responded to a petition from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer over her state’s trailblazing anti-immigrant legislation requesting that the high court void a lower court’s injunction that blocked parts of the law from being enforced. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had affirmed a yet lower court’s ruling that the state must hold off on mandating that police officers question someone about their immigration status if they believed the person to be undocumented. Other provisions, including one that made it a state crime to be an undocumented immigrant, and another that allowed law enforcement officers to hold someone in police custody while officers determined that person’s immigration status, were enjoined while the courts dealt with the constitutionality of the provisions. U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton’s court ruling was a partial injunction though; there are provisions of SB 1070 that are currently being enforced in the state.

Arizona was the first state in the nation to attempt, and pass, such brazen anti-immigrant legislation. It’s also the first state that the federal government sued over its attempts to pass and enforce its own immigration laws. In its lawsuits, the Department of Justice has argued that under the Supremacy clause of the Constitution, the federal government and the federal government alone are allowed to create and enforce immigration law. Civil rights groups have also charged that the law relies on racial profiling.

Yet since Brewer signed SB 1070 into law last year, Utah, Indiana, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina have passed copycat versions of SB 1070, clearly undeterred by the expensive and controversial legal battles they’ve instigated. Some, like Alabama’s HB 56, go further than SB 1070 in their attempts to criminalize every aspect of undocumented immigrants’ lives. And the federal government, in an effort to respond to these various individual laws, has chased down Utah, Alabama and South Carolina with separate lawsuits.

Now that the Supreme Court has agreed to take up SB 1070, they’ll attempt to settle the question of where the federal government’s territory ends and state power begins in the ongoing debate over immigration enforcement law.