The “show me your papers” provision can now be implemented after today’s decision. Arizona was operating under an injunction that prohibited the four parts of the law under question from going into effect.
The rest of the Arizona law cannot be implemented, including a provision that would have allowed police officers to arrest a suspect without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe the person “committed any public offense that makes that person removable from the United States.” Arizona argued that the provision was basic common sense. With the ability to check immigration status and apprehend people who are in the country illegally, local officers could take illegal immigrants into their detention facilities on routine pullovers without having to wait for federal agents to show up. Police officers say sometimes they wait for hours for immigration officers because they can’t detain them on their own. The justices said that provision imposes on federal law and noted that in general, it is not a crime to be in the country without documents.
The Arizona law also had a provision that made no sense, requiring noncitizens to carry documentation of their legal status and makes it a crime for undocumented immigrants to not have such ID. The concept was confusing on its face, which is more or less what the justices said during oral argument. It is impossible for an illegal immigrant to have documentation showing they are in the country legally. Civil rights groups said Arizona’s law would have improperly layered a new state crime on top of the federal violation of being in the country without papers. Arizona argued unsuccessfully that it is well within its rights to create laws prohibiting something that already is barred under federal law.
The final provision of Arizona’s law—making it a crime for undocumented foreigners to seek work or perform work—stood the least chance of surviving the justices’ scrutiny. Under federal law, employers are barred from hiring illegal immigrants; the employees are not subjected to penalties for working for them. The distinction was the subject of intense debate in 1986 when Congress created the employer sanctions as part of a comprehensive immigration scheme, and lawmakers eventually decided to make the employers liable for hiring illegal workers. The government argued that Arizona went well beyond the federal framework in assigning culpability to the employees rather than the employers. That argument went virtually unchallenged during the oral argument.
Rebecca Kaplan contributed
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