The Supreme Court on Monday delivered a split decision on Arizona’s tough 2010 immigration law, upholding its most hotly debated provision but blocking others on the grounds that they interfered with the federal government’s role in setting immigration policy.
The court unanimously sustained the law’s centerpiece, the one critics have called its “show me your papers” provision, though they left the door open to further challenges. The provision requires state law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest if they have reason to suspect that the individual might be in the country illegally.
The justices parted ways on three other provisions, with the majority rejecting measures that would have subjected illegal immigrants to criminal penalties for activities like seeking work.From the case syllabus:
1. The Federal Government’s broad, undoubted power over immigration and alien status rests, in part, on its constitutional power to“establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization,” Art. I, §8, cl. 4, and onits inherent sovereign power to control and conduct foreign relations, see Toll v. Moreno, 458 U. S. 1, 10. Federal governance is extensive and complex. Among other things, federal law specifies categories ofaliens who are ineligible to be admitted to the United States, 8 U. S. C. §1182; requires aliens to register with the Federal Government and to carry proof of status, §§1304(e), 1306(a); imposes sanctions on employers who hire unauthorized workers, §1324a; and specifies which aliens may be removed and the procedures for doing so, see §1227. Removal is a civil matter, and one of its principal features is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials, who must decide whether to pursue removal at all. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, is responsible for identifying, apprehending, and removing illegal aliens. It also operates the Law Enforcement Support Center,which provides immigration status information to federal, state, andlocal officials around the clock. Pp. 2–7.
2. The Supremacy Clause gives Congress the power to preempt state law. A statute may contain an express preemption provision, see, e.g., Chamber of Commerce of United States of America v. Whiting, 563 U. S. ___, ___, but state law must also give way to federal law in at least two other circumstances. First, States are precluded from regulating conduct in a field that Congress has determinedmust be regulated by its exclusive governance. See Gade v. National Solid Wastes Management Assn., 505 U. S. 88, 115. Intent can be inferred from a framework of regulation “so pervasive . . . that Congress left no room for the States to supplement it” or where a “federalinterest is so dominant that the federal system will be assumed topreclude enforcement of state laws on the same subject.” Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp., 331 U. S. 218, 230. Second, state laws are preempted when they conflict with federal law, including when theystand “as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.” Hines v. Davidowitz, 312 U. S. 52, 67. Pp. 7–8.