The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] on Thursday heard arguments in a challenge to illegal immigration legislation recently passed in Alabama and Georgia, but the three-judge panel chose to defer its ruling until after the US Supreme Court [official website] rules on a pending challenge to the controversial Arizona immigration law [JURIST news archives]. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website; press release] and a coalition of other civil and immigrant rights organizations claim that the Alabama [HB 56, PDF] and Georgia [HB 87 text] laws "endanger public safety and invite racial profiling" and "interfere with federal law that controls immigration law enforcement." After nearly five hours of oral arguments the court opted to refrain from acting until the Supreme Court provides some direction when it rules on the Arizona immigration legislation, which largely inspired the Alabama and Georgia [JURIST reports] laws in question. Until the court issues a decision, the lower court rulings in the Alabama and Georgia [ACLU backgrounders] cases will remain in effect. Oral argument before the Supreme Court for Arizona v. United States is scheduled for April 25, with a ruling expected by the end of the summer term.
The Arizona immigration law [SB 1070, PDF] has had a polarizing effect since its passage. Similar legislation has passed in Utah, South Carolina and Indiana [JURIST reports]. Attorneys for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer filed a brief with the US Supreme Court in February, asking the court to lift the injunction [JURIST report] that has blocked several provisions of SB 1070 from taking effect. In December the Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether Arizona's controversial immigration law is preempted by federal law [JURIST report]. In November the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] urged the Supreme Court not to hear Arizona's appeal [JURIST report]. The Supreme Court in May ruled in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting [Cornell LII backgrounder] that Arizona's controversial employment-related immigration law is not preempted by the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) [JURIST report].