U.S. Supreme Court Hears Arizona Immigration Law Argument

DENVER - The Supreme Court of the United States on April 25 heard oral arguments on whether to reverse a ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that an Arizona law that addresses the local impacts of illegal immigration is unconstitutional. 

Before each of the eight justices is a brief by a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation with decades of experience in constitutional and immigration law urging the court to uphold the law.  Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), in a friend of the court brief, urged that the Court reverse the April 2011 ruling, which, by 2-1, upheld an earlier Arizona federal court's decision that portions of S.B. 1070 are unconstitutional. 

Earlier, MSLF had urged the Supreme Court to review the ruling, which came in a lawsuit by the Obama Administration that followed similar lawsuits by the ACLU, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the NAACP, and others.  In July 2010, the Arizona court, disregarding a brief by MSLF, agreed with federal lawyers that the law conflicts with federal law and was preempted.

"Because Arizona's law is rooted in a State's traditional police powers, it is entitled to a presumption that Congress did not intend to preempt it," said William Perry Pendley, MSLF president.

On April 23, 2010, Arizona Gov. Janice K. Brewer signed Arizona S.B. 1070 into law. Arizona House Bill 2162 made additional changes to S.B. 1070 and was signed by Gov. Brewer on April 30, 2010.  The intent of S.B. 1070 is, through "cooperative enforcement of federal immigration laws" "to make attrition through enforcement the public policy of all state and local government agencies in Arizona" and "to discourage and deter the unlawful entry and presence of aliens and economic activity by persons unlawfully present in the United States."

After passage of S.B. 1070, seven lawsuits were filed challenging its constitutionality. The lawsuit filed on July 6, 2010, by the United States seeks a declaration that some provisions of S.B. 1070 are unconstitutional because they are preempted by federal law. Concurrently, the United States filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction seeking to enjoin all those provisions until the district court could issue a final decision on the merits.

On July 28, 2010, the district court granted the United States' motion, in part, and preliminarily enjoined various provisions of S.B. 1070.  On July 29, 2010, Arizona and Gov. Brewer appealed to the Ninth Circuit.  Oral arguments were conducted on Nov. 1, 2010, and, on April 11, 2011, the three-judge panel ruled against Arizona (United States v. State of Arizona, No. 16645, 9th Cir. [enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers]).  On Aug. 10, 2011, Arizona and Gov. Brewer sought Supreme Court review.

Mountain States Legal Foundation, founded in 1977, is a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system.  Its offices are in suburban Denver. 

Click here to read the transcript of oral arguments.

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