AZ Immigration Law's Traffic Stops Upheld, Other Parts Struck Down

By Andrew Lu on June 25, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Arizona police can now ask about immigration status during stops, rules the Supreme Court of the United States. While considering Arizona's immigration law, the Supreme Court upheld certain parts of the law, while striking down other parts.

As a result of the divided 5-3 decision, Arizona police will now immediately enforce that part of the law that allows police immigration checks.

State police will flag federal authorities when they find an illegal immigrant, though it's unclear what other steps officials are allowed to take once discovering an illegal immigrant.

Two years ago, SB 1070 was passed in Arizona that allowed the state to conduct these immigration checks and also making it a crime for illegal immigrants to seek work or fail to carry proper immigration papers, reports Yahoo! Almost immediately, the Obama administration sued to block the law.

As the law wound its way to the Supreme Court, a federal judge prevented many parts of the law from going into effect. The crux of the legal issue was who had the right to enforce immigration laws -- the federal government or the states.

Sympathizing with state officials and their "outsize burden" in dealing with illegal immigration, the Supreme Court allowed perhaps the most controversial aspect of the law. By allowing officials to ask about immigration on stops, opponents of the law claim this is another form of racial profiling as anyone with brown skin will automatically be suspected of being in the country illegally.

However, the Supreme Court limited the state ability to enforce and mete out punishment for federal immigration law. The Court found that the Arizona immigration law encroached on federal territory by making it a crime for illegal immigrants to seek work. The justices reasoned that this penalty should be left to the federal government to decide.

The controversial Arizona immigration law was passed in part and struck down in part. Police can now ask about immigration status during routine traffic stops, but the state has no right to issue punishment for immigration violations.

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