Arizona v. United States

  • November 25, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Anita Sinha, Practitioner-in-Residence, Immigrant Justice Clinic, American University Washington College of Law

    Since the horrific Paris attacks that killed 130 people the night of November 13, more than half of all U.S. governors have made declarations limiting or denying Syrian refugee resettlement in their states. Many of us who practice and teach immigration and refugee law, myself included, thought these statements were political grandstanding that would not be put into action – because they could not. Our certitude was based on the U.S. Constitution, federal anti-discrimination laws, and international humanitarian law. Also critical is the fact that immigration regulation and enforcement is a federal, not state, matter – a principle recently affirmed by the Supreme Court in its Arizona v. United States decision. The power to vet and admit refugees specifically is squarely in the hands of the federal government.

    Then one of the governors, Indiana’s Mike Pence, actually barred from his state a family who had just landed in the U.S. before he declared the state’s suspension of Syrian refugee resettlement. That family was eventually taken in by Connecticut. But according to a lawsuit against Governor Pence filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union, 19 additional Syrian refugees are expected to resettle in Indiana over the next few weeks or months. It may be only a matter of time before one or more of the other 25 states start turning away Syrian families. And so these state-by-state refugee rules may not be simply rhetorical. They are, however, still contrary to what Professor Steve Vladeck calls laws that are “both well settled and well conceived on the relative roles of the state and federal government when it comes to refugee crisis.” And there are compelling reasons to stick to these roles.

  • August 24, 2012
    Guest Post

    By Gabriel J. Chin and Marc L. Miller. Chin is Professor of Law at the University of California, Davis, School of Law. Miller is Vice Dean and Bilby Professor of Law at the University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law. They authored “The Unconstitutionality of State Regulation of Immigration through Criminal Law,” which recently appeared in the Duke Law Journal and addresses these arguments, and others, in more detail. The views expressed are solely those of the authors.


    On August 20, the other shoe dropped. After Arizona’s systematic defeat in Arizona v. United States, rejecting the most important parts of SB1070, the question became how courts would treat the many other state laws on the books dealing with immigrants. If a trio of cases from the Eleventh Circuit is any indication, federal courts will read Arizona v. United States as severely limiting state authority to legislate in the area of immigration.

    The three opinions were written by the same panel, and largely affirmed or expanded injunctions issued by district courts. Two cases involved Alabama’s HB56, Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama v. Governor of Alabama and United States v. Governor of Alabama. The third case, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights v. Governor of Georgia, examined Georgia’s HB 87. The laws had some of the same features as SB1070, and the Eleventh Circuit necessarily treated those as did the Supreme Court. The decisions allowed Georgia and Alabama to investigate the immigration status of people stopped or arrested, but, like the Supreme Court, left open the possibility of as-applied challenges based on racial profiling or unlawful seizures. The Eleventh Circuit also struck down Alabama’s prohibitions on undocumented people seeking work or failing to carry immigration documents, just as the Supreme Court had.

  • June 26, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    For what seems like decades a conventional wisdom, built largely by a handful of Supreme Court correspondents, has held that Justice Antonin Scalia is the high court’s most brilliant, disciplined, albeit ideological, member. He is also, according to this conventional wisdom, deliciously witty.  

    But thankfully, the Web has altered the narrative by giving forums to an array of writers who have been quick to poke holes in an increasingly tiresome and shoddy line of reporting. (It should be noted, however, that longtime Supreme Court correspondent Linda Greenhouse is not among the gaggle that built the fawning picture of a straight-shooting justice with a jolly wit. Indeed Greenhouse has taken Scalia’s sloppy work to task on numerous occasions.)

    Moreover the aging Scalia is simply not helping to advance the conventional wisdom. Though in fairness, he hardly seems concerned with what reporters, bloggers think or write about him. His constituency is made up of right-wing politicos and activists. He’s the Koch brothers’ justice.

    With each passing high court term, Scalia seems to becoming wackier, more out-of-touch, increasingly shrill. And he’s being called out for his nuttiness with growing frequency.

    In a piece for Salon, Paul Campos, for instance, is not mincing words about the tottering justice. Scalia, Campos writes, “has in his old age become an increasingly intolerant and intolerable blowhard: a pompous celebrant of his own virtue and rectitude, a purveyor of intemperate jeremiads against the degeneracy of the age, and now an author of hysterical diatribes against foreign invaders, who threaten all that is holy.”

    Campos was referring to Scalia’s concurring, dissenting opinion issued in Arizona v. U.S. where a majority of the justices invalidated three provisions, and weakened a fourth, of Arizona’s harsh anti-immigrant law. In his opinion Scalia not only railed against alleged dangers undocumented persons pose to Arizona, but also ruminated about state sovereignty and took a shot at President Obama’s actions on immigration policy.

  • June 25, 2012
    Guest Post

    By Alan B. Morrison, Lerner Family Association Dean for Public Interest & Public Service at George Washington University Law School


    The Supreme Court today by a vote of 5-3 upheld most of the rulings of the lower federal courts that Arizona’s efforts to supplement federal enforcement of federal immigration law was preempted by that law. Justice Kagan did not participate because she had worked on the case when she was Solicitor General. The ruling constituted a major victory for the Obama administration in a case that was vitally important to the Hispanic community.

    Others will join the debate on whether the majority or the dissent was correct. I am writing to explore how progressives and others who support the American Constitution Society should react to this decision and how it compares to other decisions in which preemption was invoked to set aside other state laws that we might favor. My thesis is that, for most people, where you stand on preemption is where you sit on the substantive laws being preempted. A few examples will illustrate the point, after which I will try to put the issue in some perspective.

    The proposition that federal law trumps state law if there is a conflict is not in dispute. The problem arises because Congress is often not clear, or does not anticipate what state laws might look like in a field where Congress has legislated. The Arizona case can fairly be described that way.  Nonetheless, the Supreme Court has also been clear that state laws that stand as obstacles to the objectives or means used in federal laws are also preempted, which was the claim made here when the United States sued over the Arizona law that avowedly sought to “discourage and deter unlawful entry and presence of aliens and economic activity by persons unlawfully present in the United States.” Opponents of the Arizona law saw it as an effort to harass immigrants as well as other Hispanics, while proponents claimed that it was designed to take up the slack in federal enforcement. Progressives generally favored the preemption side, while conservatives (including the three dissenting Justices, who did not include the Chief Justice) supported Arizona. For States, being opposed to federal preemption is their almost universal response, although they often take a different position when the issue is whether state law preempts actions by counties or towns. The United States is a little less monolithic, but tends to favor preemption in many if not most cases.

  • June 25, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Although the Supreme Court invalidated three key provisions of Arizona’s outlandishly harsh anti-immigrant law, it left in place for the moment the law’s ignoble “show me your papers” measure.

    The majority in Arizona v. United States invalidated three provisions of the law, SB 1070, saying they could not be enforced because they conflicted with the federal government’s constitutional authority to set policy on immigration matters. Those provisions included Section 3 criminalizing the failure of persons to carry immigration documents; Section 6, barring undocumented immigrants from seeking work; and Section 6, allowing warrantless arrests when an officer has probable cause to believe a person who has committed a crime is undocumented.

    Justice Anthony Kennedy writing for the majority said the “national government has significant power to regulate immigration. With power comes responsibility, and the sound exercise of national power over immigration depends on the nation’s meetings its responsibility to base its laws on a political will informed by searching, thoughtful, rational civic discourse.”

    But Section 2 (B), the “show me your papers” provision was upheld. The provision requires police to make a “reasonable attempt … to determine the immigration status” of persons stopped, arrested or detained on some other legitimate basis if “reasonable suspicion exists that the person” is “unlawfully present in the United States.”

    Regardless of how that provision is interpreted, Kennedy said it “only requires state officers to conduct a status check during the course of an authorized, lawful detention or after a detainee has been released, the provision likely would survive preemption – at least absent some showing that it has other consequences that are adverse to federal law and its objectives.”

    Kennedy, however, said Arizona’s “show me your papers” provision may yet be susceptible to preemption or constitutional challenges. He said today’s opinion “does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect.”