Arizona Cops Can Check for Papers, Supreme Court Rules

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Justice Antonin Scalia targeted Obama in a 22-page dissent.

"The president said at a news conference that the new program is 'the right thing to do' in light of Congress's failure to pass the administration's proposed revision of the Immigration Act," the Reagan appointee wrote. "Perhaps it is, though Arizona may not think so. But to say, as the Court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of the Immigration Act that the President declines to enforce boggles the mind."

Larry Dever, a county sheriff in Arizona who supports the most controversial part of the law, said, "While this is not a total win, it is a partial victory for sheriffs, who are constitutional officers, and confirms we have the authority to inquire of the legal status of people we think are here illegally."

In court Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. argued that the Constitution gives the federal government authority over immigration control and that the Arizona law interfered with existing federal law.

Verrilli said that while the federal government welcomes the assistance of state officers, Arizona is trying to adopt its own immigration policy while paying no heed to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the principal federal immigration statute that establishes the scheme for the regulation of immigration.

But Paul Clement, arguing on behalf of Arizona, argued that the law was passed because states are frustrated with the federal government's efforts to curb illegal immigration. Clement said that the Arizona law was drafted to cooperate with existing federal law.

Obama's allies argue that the element of the law that was upheld is the first step in enforcing laws based on race.

"This 'papers please' provision will directly lead to racial and ethnic profiling based on the way people look or the way they speak, regardless of whether they have been American citizens all of their lives," said Angela Maria Kelley, the vice president for immigration policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. "The Supreme Court's decision today will be a watershed moment in the history of American immigration policy, but we believe it will be the beginning of a movement toward the basic American principle of greater inclusivity, rather than the repudiation of it."

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