The U.S. Supreme Court has set Wednesday, April 25 as the date when it will finally hear Arizona’s appeal of the two year old federal court injunction issued against several provisions of anti-immigration law SB 1070. It will likely take several months after the April hearing for the court to actually issue its ruling.
Although Arizona has been enforcing SB 1070 since it was signed into law in April 2010, several major provisions have been ruled unconstitutional and thus put on hold. These provisions include requiring law enforcement officers to determine the legal residency status of all those they stop, forbidding law enforcement from releasing a person until their legal status has been determined, making it a crime for any individual to not carry documented proof of their legal residency status at all times, making it a crime for someone who is not an authorized U.S. resident to seek employment in the state, and allowing the warrant-less arrest of anyone suspected of being potentially deportable. The Supreme Court ruling will determine if these provisions can be enacted.
Although the Supreme Court is not set to hear Arizona’s appeal for almost three months, some legal experts are already anticipating that the court will side with the state on this issue. Although lower court judges have thus far been overwhelmingly sympathetic to the Obama administration in blocking states from enforcing legislation that interferes with the federal government’s sole authority to enforce immigration law, the Supreme Court has already issued several rulings that infer that the current justices may be more sympathetic to the “states rights” argument. At least five justices, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito and Roberts are expected to side with Arizona in this case.
If the Supreme Court does overturn the injunction currently issued against SB 1070, the implications will reach far beyond Arizona’s borders. Already lower courts have ruled unconstitutional laws and parts of laws similar to SB 1070 in South Carolina, Georgia, Indiana, Utah and Alabama. And, if given more leeway by the court to do so, a number of other states are almost certain to begin crafting their own 1070-type state anti-immigrant legislation.
As Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself from hearing the Arizona appeal, due to her former position as solicitor general during the Obama administration, five justices will need to side with the state in order for the injunction to be overturned. If the justices are evenly split, the currently issued federal appeals court ruling will stand.