Arizona v. United States - Opinion Announcement - June 25, 2012 (Part 1)

Arizona v. United States

Media for Arizona v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 25, 2012 (Part 2) in Arizona v. United States
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 25, 2012 in Arizona v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 25, 2012 (Part 1) in Arizona v. United States

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

In case 11-182, Justice Kennedy has the opinion.

The case is Arizona versus United States.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

The State of Arizona has enacted a statute called the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act.

The law is often called in the pleadings and in the opinion S. B. 1070.

It is designed, in the words of the statute, to discourage and deter the unlawful entry and presence of economic activity by persons unlawfully present in the United States.

The question before the Court is whether four different provisions of the state law are preempted and rendered invalid by federal immigration law.

The federal power to determine immigration policy is well settled.

Immigration policy can affect trade, investment, tourism, and diplomatic relations for the entire nation as well as the perceptions and expectations of aliens in this country, who seek full protection of the laws.

Federal statutes and regulations include detailed rules concerning when aliens may enter the country, how -- how they must register, whether they may work, and under what circumstances they maybe removed.

This pervasive federal law does not diminish the importance of immigration policy to the states.

In Arizona, each year hundreds of thousands of deportable aliens are apprehended.

Evidence in this record suggests that crime, property damage, and serious environmental problems are caused by the influx of illegal migration across the border.

These concerns are the background for the legal analysis in this case.

Now the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution gives Congress the power to preempt state laws.

There are subject areas where federal regulation is so extensive or the federal interest is so dominant that it may be inferred that Congress intended to displace state law altogether and this is called, field preemption.

State laws will also be found invalid if they conflict with federal law and this includes situations where state law stands as an obstacle to the full objectives of Congress.

The four disputed provisions of S. B. 1070 must be evaluated accorded -- according to these principles and the first provision to be discussed is Section 3.

This part of S. B. 1070 makes it a misdemeanor, a state law misdemeanor, not to comply with federal laws requiring aliens to complete and carry registration papers.

In the 1941 case of Hines versus Davidowitz, the Court discussed then applicable federal alien registration requirements.

The framework Congress had established at that time was described as a complete system for alien registration.

In Hines, the 1941 case, the Court held that states could -- could not complement federal law or could not enforce additional or auxiliary regulations.

Today, the federal framework of alien registration rules remains comprehensive.

Under the Hines case and based on field preemption, federal law does bar the additional enforcement mechanism provided in Section 3 and Section 3 of the Arizona law is preempted by federal law.

The next provision to be discussed is Section 5(C).

Now this Section makes it a misdemeanor for an alien in Arizona to seek or engage in unauthorized work, the penalties on the perspective or the actual employee.

Penalties include incarceration for up to six months.

Now, in 1986 Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act known as IRCA as a comprehensive framework for combating the employment of illegal aliens and that law, the federal law requires employers to verify the status of their workers and it punishes violations with civil and criminal penalties.

The unauthorized employees on the other hand are generally, under the federal law, subject only to civil penalties.

Congress debated and rejected proposals to impose criminal penalties on them.

The correct instruction to draw from the text, design, and history of the IRCA is that Congress decided these penalties would be inappropriate but authorizing them in Section 5(C) of the Arizona law upsets the careful balance struck by Congress.