A Good Day for Arizona’s Immigration Enforcement Law at the Supreme Court

As the saying goes, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.” It also ain’t over until the ladies and gentlemen who wear the black robes render their decision (expected in June). But from the tenor of the oral arguments and the questions posed by the eight U.S. Supreme Court justices at today’s hearing (Elena Kagan recused herself due to her previous tenure as Solicitor General), there is reason to be optimistic that the Court will side with Arizona on key provisions of its immigration enforcement law, SB 1070.

This morning’s oral arguments indicate that the justices were skeptical about the Obama Administration’s arguments for seeking to enjoin key provisions of SB 1070. Even Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was appointed to the high court by President Obama, stated that the Administration’s arguments pertain to status verification checks were “not selling well.”

In particular, the Justices expressed skepticism about the Obama Administration’s contention that its enforcement priorities (or lack thereof) preempt SB 1070. Justice Antonin Scalia asked U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who was arguing the case for the Administration, whether he knew of any cases in which the basis of preemption is the “Attorney General’s enforcement discretion,” calling such “an extraordinary basis for saying that the state is preempted.” This is because the standard for preemption has always been based on congressional intent—not the whim of whichever President currently resides in the White House.

Justice Scalia also dismissed Solicitor General Verrilli’s argument that federal law preempts SB 1070 because it would interfere with the national government’s ability to forge and maintain relationships with other countries. In response to this argument, Justice Scalia incredulously asked him, “So we have to enforce our laws in a manner that will please Mexico?”

Finally, the Justices questioned the Administration’s desire to enforce U.S. immigration law. Mid-hearing, Chief Justice John Roberts hit the nail on the head when he made the following comment to Solicitor General Verrilli, “It seems to me that the federal government just doesn’t want to know who is here illegally or not.”

Based on what we saw and read about today’s Supreme Court hearing, we have strong reason to be optimistic about the forthcoming ruling…but, of course, it ain’t over until the eight men and women in black robes begin writing.

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Content written by Federation for American Immigration Reform staff.


  1. avatar
    Tired of illegal immigrants on

    My favorite part of this is Justice Scalia incredulously asked him, “So we have to enforce our laws in a manner that will please Mexico?”… This has been a response I’ve used several times with those naysayers that believe “foreign relations” will be negatively impacted if America enforces law!!! Give me a break…

  2. avatar

    I’m hoping & praying these justices are patriotic & not intimidated by 0bama & H0lder & just do the right thing – for once.

  3. avatar

    It ain’t over until the fat lady sings but it’s hopefully going to go someplace good compared to where we’ve been on the road to for 3 years. It’s shocking to read what the present people in charge are taking away from the American born citizens as fast as they can. Not to mention how much of it is being given, no strings attached, to foreign countries and aliens , legal or otherwise in this country.

  4. avatar

    You will see a 4-4 decision, and that will cause the results to fall back to the judiciary dec ision rendered by the lower court…many items will be struck down and that will be the end of this matter….Az stands to lose a signifiant portion of their law and the government will be off the hook from having to help Az control the illegal immigrant problem……It would be better if the supreme court would tell the government to either enforce their responsiabilities to the state or support the efforts of Az to protect their citizens (but of course the courts are the weakest power of the federal government…or by the constitution, it should be)…… you heard it here first…..

    • avatar

      Best comment BillH because I think your right, odds are we will see a 4-4 decision which will put us back where we were before the black robes took it on. Oh… and the reason SCOTUS, Repubs and mainstream media moguls give behind closed doors? They say it is for “our own good” because a challenge would cause a Constitutional crisis,,,well, what did we have with Watergate? We natiion withstood a Civil War crisis, racial crisis of the 1960s, Watergate of the 1970s so why do they think upholding the Constitution and enforcing our laws is the wrong thing to do? Ignoring a Constitutional Crisis is not solving the problem!

      • avatar

        Really, 4-4? Considering the court has a constitutionalist – anti-constitutionalist bias of 5 – 4 with a full court and 5 – 3 without Kagan, I can’t foresee how you could possibly be correct.

    • avatar

      I don’t know where you’re getting the idea it’s going to be 4-4. Kennedy’s questioning indicates it’s going to be 5-3. Where are you getting this 4-4 nonsense from?

  5. avatar

    This case deals with the checks and balances of our government, and the right of the people to be secure. I hope the judges consider the gravity of their decision, and bring the federal government to heel.

    • avatar

      well it would be ok with most American citizens to have some way to check on the family’s that are taking food stamps, medicaid, and other subsides that are refused to new legal entrances. My daughters husband just received his ss number after 4 years of paper work and over $3000. They can not receive any help from government programs for 7 years or they can pull his Greencard and throw him out. He is proud to be here and is already working.