Published December 12, 2011
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court announced Monday it will hear arguments over Arizona's immigration law after a lower court upheld a Justice Department challenge to void the law, arguing the state can't legislate rules that the federal government is responsible for enforcing.
Similar laws in Alabama, South Carolina and Utah also are facing administration lawsuits. Private groups are suing over immigration measures adopted in Georgia and Indiana.
The case could be heard in April.
The justices -- minus Justice Elena Kagan, who did not participate in consideration of the petition -- said they will review a federal appeals court ruling that blocked several provisions in the Arizona law, including one that requires police, while enforcing other laws, to question a person's immigration status if officers suspect he is in the country illegally.
Like the health care debate, the case adds another politically charged dispute between a Republican-dominated state and the Democratic administration to the court's election-year lineup. On Friday, the justices also intervened in a partisan fight over redistricting in Texas. That case will be heard in January.
The Justice Department sued last year, arguing that Arizona's law goes beyond what the federal government allows in terms of enforcing illegal immigration laws.
Arizona counters that the federal government isn't doing enough to address illegal immigration and that border states are suffering disproportionately.
In urging the court to hear the immigration case, Arizona argued that the administration's contention that states "are powerless to use their own resources to enforce federal immigration standards without the express blessing of the federal executive goes to the heart of our nation's system of dual sovereignty and cooperative federalism."
In April, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a federal judge's ruling halting enforcement of several provisions of Arizona's S.B. 1070. Among the blocked provisions: Requiring all immigrants to obtain or carry immigration registration papers; making it a state criminal offense for an illegal immigrant to seek work or hold a job; and allowing police to arrest suspected illegal immigrants without a warrant.
In October, the federal appeals court in Atlanta blocked parts of the Alabama law that forced public schools to check the immigration status of students and allowed police to file criminal charges against people who are unable to prove their citizenship.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.