High Court Leaves Core Of Immigration Law Intact

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The Supreme Court issued a mixed decision Monday on Arizona's controversial immigration law, Senate Bill 1070. While the court struck down most of the law, it let stand the provision requiring law enforcement to check the immigration status of those they detain.


To the Supreme Court now and a much-anticipated decision on Arizona's controversial immigration law. The justices struck down most of SB1070, as the law is known. But the court did unanimously allow one key provision to take effect, and that's giving both sides reason to claim victory. We'll delve more deeply into the ruling with Nina Totenberg elsewhere in the program, but now to reaction from Arizona and NPR's Ted Robbins.

And Ted, let's start first with the three provisions of this law that were blocked. What were they?

TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: Well, the three provisions that were struck down was the one which made it a state crime to be in the country without legal documents, one making it a crime for illegal immigrants to work, and a provision allowing police to arrest people without warrants if they had cause to believe someone was deportable. So, three of the four.

CORNISH: Uh-huh. And then the one part of the law that was allowed to stand is the so-called Show Me Your Papers provision. How's that going to work?

ROBBINS: Right. Well, in fact, the Supreme Court ruled eight to nothing that the lower court should not have blocked the so-called Show Me Your Papers provision. That's the provision which requires local police to question the immigration status of anyone they stop for another reason and suspect the person of being in the country illegally. I should say it was - that it was eight to nothing. Justice Elena Kagan had recused herself because before becoming a justice, she had argued as solicitor general against the law for the Obama administration.

CORNISH: Ted, Arizona's governor, Jan Brewer, has been in front of this legal fight - at least publically. What was her reaction to the ruling today?

ROBBINS: She claimed victory. She said that Arizona and Senate Bill 1070 was vindicated, that the part that was upheld was the heart of the bill, and it was upheld unanimously. She said that she was going to have police move forward in instructing law enforcement in how to practice properly what the Supreme Court had upheld, and which she said, without racial profiling.

CORNISH: On the other hand, immigrant rights advocates are going to be keeping a very close eye on how exactly law enforcement does that, how they implement this ruling.

ROBBINS: Yeah, you know, the court said, in effect, go ahead, Arizona. Start asking for papers. We'll see how it works out. They didn't say it was okay. They just said it was wrong for the lower courts to block it. So the issue in racial profiling in police stops was never discussed. Pro-immigrant advocates - I spoke with a couple of them - said that they will monitor treatment by law enforcement.

They're going to take reports from the immigrant - the Latino community. I should really broaden that out, because it affects more than just illegal immigrants, potentially. And there's already another lawsuit challenging that portion of the Arizona law. So they're going to look carefully to see if police violate the portion that was upheld by stopping people simply because they are Latino.

CORNISH: Okay. NPR's Ted Robbins in Tucson, Arizona. Ted, thank so much.

ROBBINS: You're welcome.

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