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Supreme Court rules on Arizona's controversial immigration law

The U.S. Supreme Court today issued its decision on SB1070, Arizona's controversial immigration law.

The court ruled that most provisions of the law are pre-empted by federal law. That means the state can't take certain immigration matters into its own hands.

However, the court did not strike down the provision that allows state police officers to ask about a person's immigration status during traffic stops. But challenges could be made down the line, the decision acknowledged.

The Tohono O'odham Nation and the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona oppose SB1070 and participated in the litigation. Tribes say the law will lead to civil rights violations against individual Indians who may not have U.S. citizenship documents even though they were born in the U.S.

Today's decision leaves the door open for tribes to pursue those challenges should they arise in the future. The court effectively said it was too early to pre-empt the provision requiring officers to check a person's immigration status.

Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative members of the court, authored a dissent that staed he would uphold all of the provisions of SB1070. In a footnote, he cited a 2002 article from the Texas Law Review with an interesting title: "Powers Inherent in Sovereignty: Indians, Aliens, Territories, and the Nineteenth Century Origins of Plenary Power over Foreign Affairs.

Justice Elena Kagan, who served as Solicitor General in the months before the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Arizona, took no part in consideration of the case.

Supreme Court Decision:
Arizona v. US (June 25, 2012)

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