Supreme Court to announce whether it will hear Arizona immigration case on Monday
The nine Supreme Court justices met on Friday in a closed meeting to decide whether they will hear the case regarding Arizona’s controversial immigration law. (Wikipedia)
The Supreme Court held a closed meeting on Friday that could determine the fate of the law that served as the blueprint for state-level immigration crackdowns: Arizona’s SB 1070.
The law, which requires local law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of anyone they suspect is in the country illegally, was blocked by lower courts after the Obama administration sued the state. The challenge, led by the Justice Department, argues the law preempts the federal government’s exclusive authority in immigration matters.
Lower courts have all sided with the administration and enjoined key provisions of the law until a final judgment is reached, prompting the state to petition a hearing in the country’s highest court.
The nine sitting justices of the Supreme Court of the United States gathered in private to review, among others, the petition submitted by Arizona on Aug. 10.
In the petition, the state says illegal immigration disproportionately burdens the state financially and that it took measures into its own hands because the federal government failed to act on the issue of border security. It cites illegal entries by “criminals evading prosecution in their home countries and members of Mexican drug cartels” as reasons for concern.
“Despite that effort, the United States took the extraordinary step of initiating a suit to enjoin the law on its face before it ever took effect. That extraordinary federal effort to enjoin a duly enacted state law underscores the importance of this case,” the petition states.
Some, including the Obama administration, say they believe a Supreme Court hearing on this particular law is premature considering there are numerous lawsuits challenging similar laws currently under way.
“Generally the Supreme Court waits until more appeals courts decide on a type of case to see what decisions they should consider and what other judges have decided,” said Andre Segura, an immigration attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The Justice Department has challenged similar laws in Alabama, South Carolina, and Utah. Those laws and Georgia’s law are also being challenged by a coalition of immigrant and civil rights organizations, which include the ACLU.
“With only one appeals court having decided if the laws should be blocked, we think it’s too early for the Supreme Court to decide, though we do think they should be blocked,” Segura said.
In its lawsuits, the coalition argues that the laws are unconstitutional not only because they preempt federal law, but also because they violate due process and deny equal protection under the law based on perceived or actual race. In other words, they lead to racial profiling.
(Some states have included language in their bills that explicitly prohibits racial profiling, but have not clarified what would constitute a “reasonable suspicion” that a person is in the country illegally.)
Nora Preciado, a staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, explained that if the Supreme Court denies the petition, the case will proceed because the state will continue to fight the preliminary injunction. If the court does take the case, the decision could ultimately affect Justice Department challenges to other state laws. Cases by the coalition and others will continue regardless.
It is impossible to predict whether the Supreme Court will decide to take the case or whether a decision will be reached in this meeting, but at least some experts think it is definitely an option.
“The only reason they would decide not to take the case is if there are already cases that establish that the field of immigration clearly belongs to the federal government,” said Ezequiel Hernandez, an immigration attorney based in Arizona. “That remains to be seen.”
Typically, the judges go through numerous petitions during their meetings, and not all items are necessarily discussed when they are scheduled, according to the court’s public information office. The judges will issue an order list with the cases that have been granted or denied on Monday at 10 a.m.