Arizona takes immigration law to Supreme Court

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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has asked the Supreme Court to overturn lower courts and reinstate her state’s tough immigration law, saying the federal government continues to neglect the U.S.-Mexico border and states have to fill the gap.

Mrs. Brewer decided to go straight to the Supreme Court, rather than ask the full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear the case, arguing that the matter was going to end up in the high court eventually anyway and that time is of the essence.

“I’ve always known this legal fight would be a long one,” she said. “But now that this is the path we’ve chosen, I am confident Arizona will prevail.”

At issue is the law, known by its bill number SB 1070, which granted police the power to check the immigration status of anyone they encountered in their regular duties whom they suspected of being in the country illegally. It also required immigrants to carry their legal residency or travel documents with them.

Mrs. Brewer signed the law last April, amid huge push back from civil rights groups, who said it would lead to racial profiling.

The Obama administration sued, arguing the law infringed on the federal government’s right to set immigration policy, and both a lower federal court and a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit agreed with the administration. They blocked the law’s strictest provisions.

Arizona officials say drug violence is increasing in Mexico and that it is spilling over into the U.S. They said their law is a way of giving police more tools to try to encourage illegal immigrants to leave the state, and to clamp down on the conditions that spawn drug-war clashes.

The federal government, though, says it has taken major steps to secure the border and argues many areas are now more secure than ever.

Arizona was the first state to test the limits of federal leeway on immigration, but it has been followed by others. Georgia has adopted an Arizona-style bill, while Utah has combined both a tougher enforcement measure with a state-run guest-worker program, which would take effect in 2013.

Last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said he is ready to sue to block Utah’s law, but first wants to work with the state to see if its conflicts with federal law can be worked out over the next two years.

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