Arizona’s law giving local police immigration enforcement powers is likely to be struck down, most legal experts predict, now that the Obama administration has gone to court asserting that it conflicts with federal law, says the Tribune Co. Washington bureau. The longstanding principle holds that the federal government has exclusive control over immigration and that “no state can add or take away” from the policy set in Washington.
There is one big uncertainty, however: the current Supreme Court has not ruled directly on such a state-federal clash over immigration. “It’s one thing for MALDEF [Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund] or the ACLU to say this [Arizona law] interferes with federal policy. It is quite a different thing when the federal government goes to court and says it,” said Jack Chin, a University of Arizona law professor. “The clear rule has been that states do not have the power to regulate immigration.” Still, the Supreme Court could feel differently. The current court also may view more favorably the Arizona law giving police more arrest authority. “It wouldn’t surprise me that five members of the court would think that the mere enforcement of immigration law does not change immigration law,” said John Eastman, dean of the Chapman University School of Law.