Skip to main content

NIJC, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), and pro bono partner Jenner & Block LLP filed a brief as Amicus in Arizona, et al., v. United States of America at the U.S. Supreme Court.  The case is an appeal by the State of Arizona from a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which enjoined portions of the state's S.B. 1070 statute. The Supreme Court granted certiorari on December 12, 2011, and arguments were held on Wednesday, April 25, 2012. 

Arizona concerns the State of Arizona’s Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, commonly known as S.B. 1070.  This law requires state law enforcement officials to determine immigration status during stops and authorizes detention where an officer thinks that she has “probable cause to believe” the individual has committed a removable offense.  The statute also criminalizes noncitizens that work in Arizona or those who fail to obtain or keep on their person proof of legal immigration status.

The argument of the Amici is that Arizona’s statute is in conflict with federal law, and should be struck down: 

The Arizona statute at issue here, 2010 Ariz. S.B. 1070, is premised on a crude oversimplification of federal immigration laws which recognizes neither the competing interests that Congress has balanced in enacting those laws nor the complexity of Congress’ scheme. Arizona apparently believes that alienage is evident to the naked eye; that “unlawful presence” is a fact which can be simply determined; and (premised on these assumptions) that it knows how to enforce the immigration laws better than the federal government which has had that task for two centuries. To the contrary, this statute – so ill-designed that it could only be enforced brutishly and with haphazard suffering – aptly illustrates why the Constitution places immigration in the hands of the national government.

Counsel for Amici are NIJC’s Chuck Roth, Jenner & Block LLP’s Lindsay Harrison, Julie Carpenter, Matthew Price, Joshua Friedman, Zoila Hinson, and Christopher Wells, and AILA's Deborah Smith, Vikram Badrinath, and Stephen Manning. 

The Supreme Court in a 5-3 opinion by Justice Kennedy on June 25, 2012 affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito each filed opinions concurring in part and dissenting in part. (Kagan, J., recused). The Court's determined that Sections 3, 5(C), and 6 of 2010 Ariz. S.B. 1070 are preempted. This nullified the provisions that make it a state crime to be in the United States without proper authorization (Section 3), for undocumented immigrants to apply for a job or work in Arizona (5(C)), and the provision that authorizes state law enforcement officials to arrests without a warrant any individual otherwise lawfully in the country, if they have probable cause to believe that individual has committed a deportable offense. The Court left intact, though subject to later challenges in lower courts, Section 2(B) which requires police to arrest and hold anyone they believe has committed a crime and whom they think is in the country illegally, and holding them until their immigration status could be checked with federal officials.

Legal Documents

News