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Arizona immigration law parts struck down

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WASHINGTON (AP/ABC7) - The Supreme Court struck down key provisions of Arizona's crackdown on immigrants Monday but said a much-debated portion on checking suspects' status could go forward.

The court did not throw out the state provision requiring police to check the immigration status of someone they suspect is not in the United States legally while enforcing other laws.

Even there, though, the justices said the provision could be subject to additional legal challenges. The decision upholds the "show me your papers" requirement for the moment. But it takes the teeth out of it by prohibiting police officers from arresting people on minor immigration charges.

The ACLU called the provisions left standing a license to discriminate.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said, "How else would law enforcement be able to determine who is with or without documents? They would have to make those determinations based on a person's skin color, their surname, their accents."

The civil rights organization said it already has a nearly $9 million war chest and plans to immediately file lawsuits to block the Arizona law and others like it nationwide, including a Prince William County policy in place since 2007. The policy requires law enforcement to check a person's immigration status after they've been arrested.

Prince William County supervisor Corey Stewart called the Supreme Court ruling a victory.

"Ultimately, we feel completely vindicated that five years later, that what we did in 2007, is ultimately the law upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, and that's been enforced in Prince William County and will ultimately be enforced in Arizona," Stewart said.

Stewart claims more than 4,700 illegal immigrants have been reported since the policy went into effect.

"It has not been a success," countered Nancy Lyall with Mexicans Without Borders."The crime rate here in Prince William County was going down every year that immigration was going up. So the correlation...there is none."

Lyall said the law has actually driven a wedge between the immigrant community and law enforcement. She claims fewer crimes are being reported, and the civil rights of thousands of people are being eroded.

"It's causing racial profiling of our immigrant communities. There's just no need for it. It does nothing to reduce crime, and it only induces fear within the community," Lyall added.

The court announced that Thursday would be the last day of rulings this term, which means the decision on President Barack Obama's landmark health care overhaul probably will come that day.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion for the court that was unanimous on allowing the status check to go forward. The court was divided on striking down the other portions.

The court struck down these provisions: requiring all immigrants to obtain or carry immigration registration papers, making it a state criminal offense for an illegal immigrant to seek work or hold a job and allowing police to arrest suspected illegal immigrants without warrants.

The Obama administration sued to block the Arizona law soon after its enactment two years ago. Federal courts had refused to let the four key provisions take effect. Five states - Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah - have adopted variations on Arizona's law. Parts of those laws also are on hold pending the outcome of the Supreme Court case.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said the ruling marked a victory for people who believe in the responsibility of states to defend their residents.

The case, she said, "has always been about our support for the rule of law. That means every law, including those against both illegal immigration and racial profiling.

Law enforcement will be held accountable should this statute be misused in a fashion that violates an individual's civil rights."

Even with the limitations the high court put on Arizona, the immigration status check still is "an invitation to racial profiling," said American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Omar Jadwat.

The Obama administration sued to block the Arizona law soon after its enactment two years ago.

Federal courts had refused to let the four key provisions take effect. Five states - Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah - have adopted variations on Arizona's law.

Parts of those laws also are on hold pending the outcome of the Supreme Court case. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor joined all of Kennedy's opinion.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas would have allowed all the challenged provisions to take effect. Justice Samuel Alito would have allowed police to arrest undocumented immigrants who seek work, and also make arrests without warrants.

Scalia, in comments from the bench, caustically described Obama's recently announced plans to ease deportation rules for some children of illegal immigrants.

"The president said at a news conference that the new program is 'the right thing to do' in light of Congress' failure to pass the administration's proposed revision of the Immigration Act. 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," Scalia said.

Romney said Monday's ruling "underscores the need for a president who will lead on this critical issue and work in a bipartisan fashion to pursue a national immigration strategy."

He said, "I believe that each state has the duty - and the right - to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law, particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities."

The Arizona case focused on whether states can adopt their own measures to deal with an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the face of federal inaction on comprehensive reform, or whether the federal government has almost exclusive authority in that area. Kennedy wrote obliquely about the impasse at the national level.

"Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law," Kennedy said. Justice Elena Kagan sat out the case because of her work in the Obama administration.

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