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National attention has been focused on SB 1070, the Arizona immigration law that was scheduled to go into effect on July 29, 2010. On July 28, 2010, the United States District Court in Phoenix ruled that the key portions of the Arizona law are unconstitutional in a lawsuit brought by the federal government seeking to block the Arizona law. The following day, the state of Arizona appealed that decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and requested expedited consideration, which was denied. The case will be heard by the Ninth Circuit in November, 2010.
The District Court ruled that the primary parts of the law are unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution because the Constitution gives Congress the authority to establish uniform laws regarding immigration. The federal government argued that immigration laws should be uniform, rather than allowing a patchwork of 50 state laws and potentially countless local ordinances addressing immigration.
The enactment of SB 1070 in Arizona is at the crest of a wave of immigration legislation in state legislatures. The National Conference of State Legislators reports that during the first half of 2010, 1,374 bills were introduced in the legislatures of the 50 states, with 319 laws being passed in 44 of those states. During 2009, 353 immigration laws were passed by state legislatures, nearly 10 times the 38 immigration laws passed during 2005.
With so much immigration legislation being enacted at the state level, and a stalemate in Congress, lawsuits are inevitable and plentiful to define what authority state and local governments may exercise under the Constitution. An answer may come as early as the next term of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Already pending before the U.S. Supreme Court is a challenge to a 2007 Arizona law that would suspend or revoke business licenses for employing undocumented persons. That case will be heard by the Supreme Court this winter, with a decision expected by June 2011. It is likely that the Supreme Court's decision regarding the 2007 Arizona employer's sanctions law will foreshadow whether the new Arizona immigration law and similar laws are constitutional.
Specifically, the portions of Arizona's SB 1070 that were blocked by the District Court include the following provisions:
August 03, 2010