Arizona v. United States on SB 1070

March 31, 2012 § 1 Comment

Arguments in front of the U.S. Supreme Court over the legality of the controversial immigration law known as “SB 1070” will soon take place next month on April 25, 2012. The important question here is whether the contested provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070 will be preempted by federal law. In order to adjudicate on this issue, the U.S. Supreme Court will first examine two important preliminary questions: (1) Which party – the U.S. government or the State of Arizona – bears the burden of proof as to whether the four enjoined provisions in SB 1070 are preempted. If the Court finds that there is a presumption that one party bears the burden of proof, such a finding could very well determine the outcome of the case because the party bearing the burden of proof must point to specific federal laws that expressly support its position. (2) The second preliminary issue that is also important is whether states have “inherent authority” to arrest persons solely on suspicion that they have violated federal immigration laws. As with the first preliminary issue on the presumption for or against preemption, the party that loses this issue bears the burden of identifying a specific federal law affirmatively supporting its position.

The effect of the Court’s ruling on other states with copycat laws—including Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah—will depend on the scope of the decision. If provisions of SB 1070 are found to be preempted under federal law, identical provisions of other state laws will also be prevented from going into effect. However, copycat laws in other states contain provisions that are not before the Supreme Court in this case. For example, the decision will not definitively resolve the legality of the provision of Alabama HB 56 that requires school administrators to ascertain the immigration status of newly enrolling students.

For more detailed analysis refer to the Q&A Guide to Arizona v. United States: What You Need to Know About the Supreme Court Case Over SB 1070, published by the Immigration Policy Center.


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