Was the Supreme Court's Arizona Immigration Ruling Correct?

The Supreme Court struck down three of four provisions of Arizona's controversial immigration law.

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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer speaks to reporters after the Supreme Court questioned her state's immigration law in April.

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The Supreme Court Monday struck down three parts of Arizona's controversial immigration law, upholding one. The 5-3 ruling on Arizona SB1070 is a victory for the federal government, which challenged the constitutionality of a state creating its own immigration policy.

The court struck down several provisions of the law, but upheld the portion which allows law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of anyone they arrest if they suspect that person to be in the country without any documentation. Opponents of the law argued that this was discriminatory, and would lead to racial profiling.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer referred to "show me your papers" provision as "the heart of of SB 1070" in a statement in response to the court's decision.

[See a collection of political cartoons on immigration.]

"The case for SB 1070 has always been about our support for the rule of law. That means every law, including those against both illegal immigration and racial profiling," Brewer said in the statement. "Law enforcement will be held accountable should this statute be misused in a fashion that violates an individual's civil rights."

She added that she expects the law will continue to be challenged and questions will remain surrounding the implementation of the law. Indeed, the decision stated that, "This opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect."

The court overturned provisions requiring all Arizona citizens to carry registration papers proving they are legally in the state, prohibiting those without papers to look for and work in the state, and allowing police to stop anyone they suspect of being deportable.

Justin Cox, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants Rights Project said that while the bill isn't everything the group wanted, "it does go a long way towards reinforcing what we've been saying all along, which is immigration is a federal issue and the states have; there's very little that a state can do constitutionally to affect immigration."

[Learn about the U.S. Supreme Court Justices.]

Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah also have similar state-level immigration laws. Each has been challenged in either federal district court or a circuit court of appeals.

The opinion was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, John Roberts, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor joining. Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito filed opinions concurring in part and dissenting in part. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself, due to her involvement with the case in her previous position as solicitor general.

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