Kagan recused herself from Arizona immigration law case

The Supreme Court has agreed to arbitrate the battle between the Obama administration and Arizona on the state's tough immigration law. The law, known as SB 1070, passed in 2010 but lower courts had blocked its full implementation.

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan will recuse herself from the court's review of Arizona's immigration law because of her former position as the Obama administration's Solicitor General.

As Lyle Denniston at SCOTUS blog points out, that means that the court could split 4-4 on the decision. In that scenario, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision on the law--which struck down most of its provisions--would stand. But that decision would have no effect on states in other federal appellate jurisdictions that have passed similar laws over the past year, including Alabama. (Other states that passed similar legislation include South Carolina, Utah, Indiana and Georgia.)

The Obama administration discouraged the Supreme Court from taking up the case, saying the court should wait until other appellate courts ruled on copycat laws in other states. The law requires local police to ask people about their immigration status in certain cases and allows them to arrest people without a warrant if police believe they have committed a crime that makes them deportable.

Arizona argues that the law is only trying to increase cooperation between state law enforcement officers and federal immigration agents; the Obama administration says the state is interfering with the federal government's authority to enforce immigration laws.

In May, the Supreme Court decided that Arizona was within its rights to institute an employer sanctions law that punishes employers who do not use the federal e-verify program to ensure their employees are legally allowed to work.

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