(CN) – The 9th Circuit sent constitutional challenges to Arizona’s tough immigration laws back to the trial court on Wednesday, setting the stage for the next act of one of the nation’s most closely watched cases.
In June, the high court upheld section Section 2(B) of the state’s controversial anti-illegal immigration law known as SB1070. The so-called “papers please” provision requires police officers in the state to check the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest if “reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien and is unlawfully present in the United States.”
Since the law has not yet gone into effect, the justices said that it was too early to determine if its opponents could rely on federal pre-emption.
“However the law is interpreted, if §2(B) only requires state officers to conduct a status check during the course of an authorized, lawful detention or after a detainee has been released, the provision likely would survive preemption – at least absent some showing that it has other consequences that are adverse to federal law and its objectives,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for a four-member majority.
Kennedy added that the decision did “not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect.”
A Phoenix federal judge enjoined four provisions of SB1070 before the law took effect, and the 9th Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court upheld most of the 9th Circuit’s ruling but reversed an injunction against enforcement of Section 2(B).
In a brief order published Wednesday, the San Francisco-based federal appeals court remanded the issue and directed the District Court to rule accordingly.
Less than a month after the ruling, a coalition of civil rights groups led by the American Civil Liberties Union renewed the legal battle to block section 2(B).
In a statement, the groups said that they had “evidence that legislators who supported the law routinely used false ‘facts’ and discriminatory language and that they intended section 2(B) to impose statewide the racial profiling tactics used by Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County.”
Also since the ruling, Arpaio has gone to trial over allegations that his department engages in such tactics.
The Supreme Court’s ruling on Arizona’s law, and all the speculation leading up to it, also appears to have affected anti-illegal immigration legislation nationwide.
State lawmakers enacted 114 immigration-related bills in the first half of 2012, down significantly from the 257 passed in the first half of 2011, according to a study released this week by the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Immigrant Policy Project.
“Multiple reasons exist for the decline in immigration-related legislation,” the report states. “Budget gaps and redistricting maps took priority, consuming the bulk of legislative agendas. Perhaps more significant, state lawmakers cited pending litigation on states’ authority to enforce immigration laws, such as the Arizona v. United States decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June, as further reason to postpone action.”