Supreme Court releases ruling on Arizona's harsh immigration law

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The US Supreme Court has struck down key provisions of Arizona's harsh SB 1070 law affecting illegal immigrants.

The SB 1070 law, introduced in 2010, states:
  • Any immigrant over the age of 14 who remains in the US for more than 30 days must register with the government.
  • All immigrants must carry registration documents on them at all times. If they do not, it is a misdemeanor crime if you are found without the proper documentation.
  • The law obligates the police to make an attempt, when practicable during a "lawful stop, detention or arrest" to determine a person's immigration status if there is reasonable suspicion that the person is an illegal immigrant.
  • If you are found without the proper documentation, a first offense carries a fine of up to $100, plus court costs, and up to 20 days in jail; subsequent offenses can result in up to 30 days in jail.
  • It is a crime for anyone, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, to hire or to be hired from a vehicle which "blocks or impedes the normal movement of traffic."
  • It is an additional offense to transport an illegal immigrant knowingly.
The Supreme Court found most of the law was unconstitutional including:
  • It being a state misdemeanor for an immigrant not to be carrying documentation showing they are legally allowed to be in the US,
  • Allowing state police to arrest without a warrant in some situations.
  • Banning illegal immigrants from seeking work in public places without federal authorisation.
However, the court did find it was legal to require police to check the status of someone they suspect is not in the US legally, but noted that they cannot arrest people on immigration charges, unless they have approval from federal immigration officers. The court also said that depending on how this provision is implemented, it may be overturned one day because law enforcement officials could incorrectly be using it to pull over people only because they appear to be a certain race and may be illegal immigrants.

The court stated that, "As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States," and so to arrest an illegal immigrant "based on nothing more than possible removability" goes against the federal system that sets out the rules and procedures for removal. "The result could be unnecessary harassment of some aliens. This is not the system Congress created. By authorizing state officers to decide whether an alien should be detained for being removable, Section 6 violates the principle that the removal process is entrusted to the discretion of the federal government."

US President Obama commented on the ruling saying he was still concerned that the law could leave Latinos subject to police stops just because of their appearance.

"I will work with anyone in Congress who's willing to make progress on comprehensive immigration reform that addresses our economic needs and security needs, and upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants," said Obama.

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