SCOTUS: Can states regulate illegal immigration?

SCOTUS: Can states regulate illegal immigration?

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President Barack Obama meets with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in the Oval Office on June 3, 2010. (Source: Pete Souza/White House) President Barack Obama meets with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in the Oval Office on June 3, 2010. (Source: Pete Souza/White House)

WASHINGTON (RNN) - Arizona's controversial 2010 immigration law will face the Supreme Court Wednesday, with the state insisting its bill was designed to support federal law and the government arguing it would allow Arizona to take that law into its own hands.

Arguments are likely to center on whether Arizona has any authority to regulate illegal immigration, an issue states with tough immigration laws, like Alabama, will undoubtedly be watching closely.

The government says allowing "for each state, and each locality, to set its own immigration policy in that fashion would wholly subvert Congress's goal: a single, national approach."

Meanwhile, Arizona argues that their goal is help make federal enforcement efforts more efficient. Many of the statutes in the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act mirror federal law with the exception of more frequent enforcement.

The Act would require police to check the citizenship status of people pulled over during traffic stops "where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien and is unlawfully present in the United States." It would also require officers to verify citizenship when people are arrested and put more pressure on employers who hire illegal immigrants.

The federal government says the law "empowers state and local officers to pursue and detain a person based on the officers' perception that the person is removable, and without regard to federal priorities or even specific federal enforcement determinations."

The law would allow Arizona the discretion to prosecute people the federal government may have chosen not to, working less towards cooperation between federal and state officials as "confrontation," according to the government.

Only federal courts are authorized to start deportation proceedings.

When the law passed in 2010, it was met with nationwide debate because of its potential for encouraging racial profiling. The law is vague as to what "reasonable suspicion" is when asking for immigration papers.

The federal government and a slew of civil rights organizations including the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center have challenged the law. Sixteen states have filed with the Supreme Court in support of the law, while 11 have filed against it.

The hearing will come at a high point in public support for the law, according to a poll released April 20 by Fox News.

The poll, which garnered 910 responses, found 65 percent of Americans supported the law - the most since the poll found the country divided in June 2010 with 50 percent of people in support of it.

"Public support for this law is as strong as ever," Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said. "The more people learn about SB 1070, the more they like it."

Whether they support the law itself or not, a poll released Monday from Rasmussen Reports found a majority of people - 59 percent - are in favor of officers checking immigration status during all traffic stops.

However, it remains to be seen whether the law is even necessary. Based on statistics on immigration-related arrests, Arizona estimates that one-third of all illegal border crossings were made into the Grand Canyon State, making illegal immigration a huge concern in the state.

But the number of people coming to America from Mexico seems to be slightly lower than the number of people going to Mexico from America now, according to a report released Monday by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Between 1995 and 2000, approximately 3 million people immigrated from our southern borders while only 670,000 Americans ventured south. However between 2005 and 2010, immigration just about leveled off with 1.4 million Mexicans and Americans switching their place of residency.

That means the Arizona law may have been passed while the number of illegal immigrants coming into the country was hitting a lull.

Although debates over the bill will wrap up in one day, it will most likely be months before the Supreme Court issues its decision.

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