U.S. Supreme Court Rules on Arizona Immigration Law – Summary and Background Information*
- Section 3 which makes failure to comply with federal alien-registration requirements a state misdemeanor;
- Section 5(C) which makes it a misdemeanor for an unauthorized alien to seek or engage in work in the State;
- Section 6 which authorizes state and local officers to arrest without a warrant a person “the officer has probable cause to believe … has committed any public offense that makes the person remova ble from the United States”; and,
- Section 2(B) which requires officers conducting a stop, detention, or arrest to make efforts, in some circumstances, to verify the person’s immigration status with the Federal Government. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, agreeing that the United States had es tablished a likelihood of success on its preemption claims.
- Relying on precedent, the Court stated that Section 3’s registration provision intrudes on a “complete” federal registration plan to be a “single integrated and all-embracing system” prohibiting even complementary state regulation.
- Section 5(C)’s criminal penalty of aliens is unconstitutional because Congress decided it would be inappropriate to impose criminal penalties on unauthorized em ployees and therefore a state law to the contrary is an obstruction to the regulatory system Congress chose.
- Section 6 fails because it attempts to provide state officers with even greater arrest authority than that granted federal officers by Congress in limited circumstances, which state officers could exercise without in struction from the Federal Government.
Nevertheless, the Court did leave open a potential challenge to Section 2(B)’s constitutionality. If the law only requires state officers to conduct a status check during the course of an authorized, lawful detention or after a detainee has been released, the law would likely survive further challenge on preemption. The Court’s concern is that it is unknown whether in carrying out Arizona’s law state officers would delay the release of detainees for no reason other than to verify their immigration status, which raises potential 4th Amendment (prevention of unreasonable search and seizure) issues and would potentially put state officers in the position of holding aliens in custody for possible unlawful presence without federal direction and supervision.
The Court’s decision in the case highlights many of the same pitfalls similar states will soon find themselves, but at the same time provides states guidance on a narrow approach to immigration enforcement that would work on the state level. Only time and most likely several more trips to the Court will tell.
*Author: Attorney Roman Plachý of BridgehouseLaw Atlanta.
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Reinhard von Hennigs