The state of Arizona on Wednesday filed a petition for writ of certiorari [text, PDF] with the US Supreme Court [official website] seeking to overturn a lower court decision enjoining four provisions of Arizona's controversial immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive]. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] upheld [opinion, PDF] an injunction in April before the law ever took effect, and Arizona is now asking the high court to address whether the state law is preempted by federal immigration legislation. The state maintains that the Ninth Circuit incorrectly concluded that the state law was facially preempted and "declined to determine whether there were constitutional applications" of the Arizona immigration legislation. The state and federal laws are compatible, Arizona argues:
The baseline assumptions of our federal system are that States have inherent, plenary police power and that cooperative law enforcement is the norm. States, unlike federal agencies, are not creatures of the federal Congress and do not depend on federal statutes for authorization. It is, moreover, commonplace for state and federal law to prohibit the same conduct, and this Court has repeatedly emphasized that state officials are primarily governed by state law even when they cooperate with federal law enforcement officials. Thus, a conclusion that States are completely foreclosed from enforcing federal law or from enacting state laws that prohibit conduct made unlawful by Congress could be supported only by the clearest of congressional statements. Here, far from foreclosing such cooperative law enforcement efforts, the federal immigration laws expressly contemplate such cooperation and go so far as to compel federal cooperation with state efforts.Arizona urged the Supreme Court to grant certiorari because the question at issue is of "extraordinary importance," the decision below created a circuit split and the lower court decision is inconsistent with established precedent. The Supreme Court will likely decide whether to hear the case [SCOTUS blog report] when its term opens in October.
In a preview of how it might rule should it decide to hear the case, the Supreme Court in May ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that Arizona's controversial employment related immigration law [materials] is not preempted by the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) [text]. Last year, the DOJ sued [JURIST report] the state of Arizona and Governor Jan Brewer [official website] over SB 1070, arguing that both the Constitution and federal law "do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country." The agency also claimed that the federal government has preeminent authority to regulate immigration matters and that the enforcement of the Arizona law is counterproductive to the national immigration policy. SB 1070, which criminalizes illegal immigration and requires police officers to question an individual's immigration status if the officer has a "reasonable suspicion" to believe an individual is in the country illegally, was signed into law [JURIST report] in April of last year. The law faces several additional legal challenges including a class-action law suit [JURIST report] filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [official website] on behalf of a number of advocacy groups and several private individuals. A challenge brought by several Tucson police officers claiming the law could not be properly implemented without racially profiling was dismissed [JURIST reports] late last year.