By Ariane de Vogue ( @arianedevogue)
The Supreme Court has added another hot button issue to its docket this term agreeing today to hear a challenge to Arizona's strict immigration law.
The case will be argued sometime this spring, and Justice Elena Kagan will take no part in the decision presumably because she dealt with the issue in her previous job as Solicitor General of the Obama administration.
Today's announcement means that by June the court will have decided three major controversial issues that could have an impact on the next election. Besides the immigration case, the Court will hear a challenge to the Obama administration's health care law as well as a dispute regarding Texas redistricting maps.
Arizona's immigration law was passed in April of 2010, and was immediately challenged by the Obama administration. The administration argued that the state law interferes with existing federal law.
"Federal law and policy do not adopt such a one-size-fits all approach to enforcement," Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli argues in court briefs. "The officials who enforce the Nation's immigration laws require significant discretion in order to balance numerous goals and purposes… including law enforcement priorities, foreign -relations considerations and humanitarian concerns."
Lower courts sided with the Obama administration and blocked several key provision of the law from going into effect.
The lower court's decision outraged Arizona Governor Jan Brewer who released a statement at the time saying the law "represents another tool for our state to use as we work to address a crisis we did not create and the federal government has actively refused to fix. The law protects all of us, every Arizona citizen and everyone here in our state lawfully." Arizona argues that the State had to move aggressively to pass the controversial provisions because the federal government was not doing its duty to control immigration.
Lawyers for the State asked the Supreme Court to step in to reverse the lower Court's action.
"Arizona bears the brunt of the problems caused by illegal immigration," writes lawyer Paul Clement, a lawyer for the State in court briefs. "Arizona has repeatedly asked the federal government for more vigorous enforcement of the federal immigration laws, but to no avail."
One of the blocked provisions provides that a law enforcement officer can ask the person he has stopped, detained or arrested for his papers if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person is in the country illegally. Another section makes it a state crime for someone to work or seek work without proper authorization.
Critics of the law are pleased that the high court has agreed to step in and decide the issue.
"I think the Court intends to clarify any dispute about the meaning of its legal precedent regarding the ability of states to regulate immigration." says Karen Tumlin, and attorney at the National Immigration Law Center.
"This case boils down to a question of whether Arizona can mandate that its officers interrogate individuals about their immigration status and attempt to enforce federal civil immigration law" she says.
Although deeply opposed to the law, the Obama administration had asked the Supreme Court to refrain from taking up the case at this juncture. Verrilli argued that so far only one appellate court has dealt with the law and the Supreme Court should wait until more cases from other states have had a chance to make their way through the lower courts.
Similar legislation is pending in Utah, South Carolina, Indiana, Georgia and Alabama.Also Read