By Jim Kouri
Eight U.S. Supreme Court justices listened to legal arguments regarding Arizona’s immigration enforcement law (SB 1070) on Wednesday. Only Associate Justice Elena Kagen was absent after she recused herself due to her input on the Obama administration’s case while she served as Solicitor General.
During the long anticipated Arizona v. U.S. case, the constitutionality of Arizona state’s popular law was debated. The law stipulates that local police officers in Arizona are permitted to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws if “reasonable suspicion” exists that the person is in the country illegally.
In order to block the measure, the Obama Administration sued, claiming that Governor Jan Brewer and Arizona lawmakers are not legally entitled to enforce immigration law since it is a federal matter. But attorneys representing Arizona state countered by stating the federal government is unable — or unwilling — to stop rampant illegal immigration.
The eight justices participated in almost 90 minutes of legal back-and-forth from opposing attorneys on Wednesday, and U.S. media sources such as Fox News Channel indicated the justices appeared highly doubtful of the Obama administration’s objections to the measure, dubbed Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act by the lawmakers who wrote and sponsored the bill.
According to several polls, upwards of 68 percent of Americans and 60 percent of Arizonians want the state government to enforce immigration regulations and laws.
Attorney Paul Clement, representing Arizona, told the high court that the federal government has long failed to control the problem, and that states have discretion to assist in enforcing immigration laws.
However, the Obama administration’s Solicitor General Donald Verrilli countered that assertion, saying immigration matters are under the federal government’s exclusive authority and state ” interference” would only make things worse.
But when he was questioned by Justice Antonin Scalia regarding President Barack Obama’s assertion that the Arizona law amounted to “racial profiling,” Verrilli conceded it was not racial profiling.
A ruling on the case is expected some time in late June, before the justices recess for the summer.
Besides Arizona, a number of organizations submitted Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) briefs including former Justice Department chief of staff — now radio talk show star — Mark Levin and his Landmark Legal Foundation, the top corruption investigating public-interest group Judicial Watch, and others.