The law had made it a crime for non-citizens who are unlawfully present in the United States to work in Arizona and requires police officers to check the immigration status of any person whom they have probable cause to believe is an illegal immigrant.
Two significant points about the decision is that the Court voted 8-0 to reject this particular challenge to the show me your papers provision, with Kagan recused. The majority opinion also leaves open the possibility that a future challenge to this provision could succeed, including a claim that the law leads to unconstitutional racial profiling.
Read the opinion here. More on sections struck down and upheld below the fold.
Here is the President’s statement on the ruling.
I am pleased that the Supreme Court has struck down key provisions of Arizona’s immigration law. What this decision makes unmistakably clear is that Congress must act on comprehensive immigration reform. A patchwork of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system – it’s part of the problem.
At the same time, I remain concerned about the practical impact of the remaining provision of the Arizona law that requires local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of anyone they even suspect to be here illegally. I agree with the Court that individuals cannot be detained solely to verify their immigration status. No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like. Going forward, we must ensure that Arizona law enforcement officials do not enforce this law in a manner that undermines the civil rights of Americans, as the Court’s decision recognizes. Furthermore, we will continue to enforce our immigration laws by focusing on our most important priorities like border security and criminals who endanger our communities, and not, for example, students who earn their education – which is why the Department of Homeland Security announced earlier this month that it will lift the shadow of deportation from young people who were brought to the United States as children through no fault of their own.
I will work with anyone in Congress who’s willing to make progress on comprehensive immigration reform that addresses our economic needs and security needs, and upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. And in the meantime, we will continue to use every federal resource to protect the safety and civil rights of all Americans, and treat all our people with dignity and respect. We can solve these challenges not in spite of our most cherished values – but because of them. What makes us American is not a question of what we look like or what our names are. What makes us American is our shared belief in the enduring promise of this country – and our shared responsibility to leave it more generous and more hopeful than we found it.
And Mitt Romney’s yawner of an irrelevant statement (where’s his solution for reform? Oh that’s right, MIA):
“Today’s decision underscores the need for a President who will lead on this critical issue and work in a bipartisan fashion to pursue a national immigration strategy. President Obama has failed to provide any leadership on immigration. This represents yet another broken promise by this President. I believe that each state has the duty–and the right–to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law, particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities. As Candidate Obama, he promised to present an immigration plan during his first year in office. But 4 years later, we are still waiting.”
Sections struck down (cited in Kennedy’s opinion):
3. Sections 3, 5(C), and 6 of S. B. 1070 are preempted by federal law. Pp. 8–19.
(a) Section 3 intrudes on the field of alien registration, a field in which Congress has left no room for States to regulate. In Hines, a state alien-registration program was struck down on the ground that Congress intended its “complete” federal registration plan to be a “single integrated and all-embracing system.” 312 U. S., at 74. That scheme did not allow the States to “curtail or complement” federal law or “enforce additional or auxiliary regulations.” Id., at 66–67. The federal registration framework remains comprehensive. Because Congress has occupied the field, even complementary state regulation is impermissible. Pp. 8–11.
(b) Section 5(C)’s criminal penalty stands as an obstacle to the federal regulatory system. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), a comprehensive framework for “combating the employment of illegal aliens,” Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB, 535 U. S. 137, 147, makes it illegal for employers to knowingly hire, recruit, refer, or continue to employ unauthorized workers, 8 U. S. C. §§1324a(a)(1)(A), (a)(2), and requires employers to verify prospective employees’ employment authorization status, §§1324a(a)(1)(B), (b). It imposes criminal and civil penalties on employers, §§1324a(e)(4), (f), but only civil penalties on aliens who seek, or engage in, unauthorized employment, e.g., §§1255(c)(2), (c)(8). IRCA’s express preemption provision, though silent about whether additional penalties may be imposed against employees, “does not bar the ordinary working of conflict pre-emption principles” or impose a “special burden” making it more difficult to establish the preemption of laws falling outside the clause. Geier v. American Honda Motor Co., 529 U. S. 861, 869–872. The correct instruction to draw from the text, structure, and history of IRCA is that Congress decided it would be inappropriate to impose criminal penalties on unauthorized employees. It follows that a state law to the contrary is an obstacle to the regulatory system Congress chose. Pp. 12–15.
(c) By authorizing state and local officers to make warrantless arrests of certain aliens suspected of being removable, Section 6 too creates an obstacle to federal law. As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain in the United States. The federal scheme instructs when it is appropriate to arrest an alien during the removal process. The Attorney General in some circumstances will issue a warrant for trained federal immigration officers to execute. If no federal warrant has been issued, these officers have more limited authority. They may arrest an alien for being “in the United States in violation of any [immigration] law or regulation,” for example, but only where the alien “is likely to escape before a warrant can be obtained.” §1357(a)(2). Section 6 attempts to provide state officers with even greater arrest authority, which they could exercise with no instruction from the Federal Government. This is not the system Congress created. Federal law specifies limited circumstances in which state officers may perform an immigration officer’s functions. This includes instances where the Attorney General has granted that authority in a formal agreement with a state or local government. See, e.g., §1357(g)(1). Although federal law permits state officers to “cooperate with the Attorney General in the identification, apprehension, detention, or removal of aliens not lawfully present in the United States,” §1357(g)(10)(B), this does not encompass the unilateral decision to detain authorized by §6. Pp. 15–19.
Here is the one section that survived for now — “Check your papers” — but constitutional challenges are still possible (certainly on the basis of racial profiling) SCOTUS, rejected only the preemption.
4. It was improper to enjoin Section 2(B) before the state courts had an opportunity to construe it and without some showing that §2(B)’s enforcement in fact conflicts with federal immigration law and its objectives. Pp. 19–24.
(a) The state provision has three limitations: A detainee is presumed not to be an illegal alien if he or she provides a valid Arizona driver’s license or similar identification; officers may not consider race, color, or national origin “except to the extent permitted by the United States [and] Arizona Constitution[s]”; and §2(B) must be “implemented in a manner consistent with federal law regulating immigration, protecting the civil rights of all persons and respecting the privileges and immunities of United States citizens.” P. 20.
(b) This Court finds unpersuasive the argument that, even with those limits, §2(B) must be held preempted at this stage. Pp. 20–24.
(1) The mandatory nature of the status checks does not interfere with the federal immigration scheme. Consultation between federal and state officials is an important feature of the immigration system. In fact, Congress has encouraged the sharing of information about possible immigration violations. See §§1357(g)(10)(A), 1373(c). The federal scheme thus leaves room for a policy requiring state officials to contact ICE as a routine matter. Cf. Whiting, 563 U. S., at ___. Pp. 20–21.
(2) It is not clear at this stage and on this record that §2(B), in practice, will require state officers to delay the release of detainees for no reason other than to verify their immigration status. This would raise constitutional concerns. And it would disrupt the federal framework to put state officers in the position of holding aliens in custody for possible unlawful presence without federal direction and supervision. But §2(B) could be read to avoid these concerns. 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 provision would likely survive preemption—at least absent some showing that it has other consequences that are adverse to federal law and its objectives. Without the benefit of a definitive interpretation from the state courts, it would be inappropriate to assume §2(B) will be construed in a way that conflicts with federal law. Cf. Fox v. Washington, 236 U. S. 273, 277. This opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect. Pp. 22–24.