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High court to look at state immigration laws

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WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court agreed Monday to rule on Arizona's controversial law targeting illegal immigrants, setting the stage for an election-year decision on an issue that is already shaping presidential politics.

The justices said they will review a federal appeals court ruling that blocked several tough provisions in the Arizona law. One of those requires that police, while enforcing other laws, question a person's immigration status if officers suspect he is in the country illegally.

The Obama administration challenged the Arizona law by arguing that regulating immigration is the job of the federal government, not states.

Similar laws in Alabama, South Carolina and Utah also are facing administration lawsuits. Private groups are suing over immigration measures adopted in Georgia and Indiana.

The court now has three politically charged cases on its election-year calendar. The other two are President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and new electoral maps for Texas' legislature and congressional delegation.

Justice Elena Kagan will not take part in the Arizona case, presumably because of her work on the issue when she served in the Justice Department.

Arguments probably will take place in late April, which would give the court roughly two months to decide the case.

Some 12 million illegal immigrants are believed to live in the United States, and the issue already is becoming a factor in the 2012 campaign.

Republican Sen. John McCain said recently that large Hispanic populations in his home state of Arizona and elsewhere are listening carefully to what Republican candidates have to say on immigration.

The immigration case before the Supreme Court stems from the Obama administration's furious legal fight against a patchwork of state laws targeting illegal immigrants.

Arizona wants the justices to allow the state to begin enforcing measures that have been blocked by lower courts at the administration's request.

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