Supreme Court Sounds Doubtful Tone in Obama v. Arizona Immigration Case

Will Governorn Brewer and the Rule of Law Win Out at Last?


U.S. Supreme Court justices on Wednesday sounded a doubtful tone regarding the Obama administration’s claims that it has the right to stop Arizona from enforcing immigration laws, telling government lawyers the state appears to want to push federal officials to act, not stop them.

Justices were hearing arguments regarding an Arizona law aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration. In particular, the law would give police officers in the state to check the immigration status of anyone they suspected of being in the country illegally, in accordance with federal guidelines.

The Obama administration sued the state shortly after Gov. Jan Brewer signed the measure into law, charging the state statutes conflicted with the federal government’s constitutional role to enforce immigration laws and set policies. Justices on both sides of the political aisle, however, appeared unconvinced by the argument, the Washington Times reported.

“It seems to me the federal government just doesn’t want to know who’s here illegally,” Chief Justice John Roberts said at one point during oral arguments.

The Arizona law also requires police in the state to check with federal officials if they believe someone is in the country illegally. Federal lawyers argued that in and of itself is okay, but making it a state mandate for all officers is a method of forcing the federal government to change its priorities, the paper said.

“These decisions have to be made at the national level,” Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. told the court, arguing that the federal government has limited resources and should determine its own policies regarding illegal immigration.

Even justices who share the administration’s political tendencies did not accept that explanation.

“I’m terribly confused by your answer,” Justice Sonya Sotomayor said in response to Virrilli’s statement, adding that, if it chose, the federal government could simply refuse to come pick the illegal immigrants up when the state called.

The Times said the government appeared to be on its strongest footing when lawyers argued that a provision of the Arizona statute that allows for penalties including jail time for illegal immigrants who attempt to get jobs.

Only eight justices heard arguments. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case, possibly because she was the Obama administration’s solicitor general during the time Arizona passed its statute, the Times reported.

© 2012 Newsroom America.