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Ariz. Reacts To Upcoming Immigration Law Review

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

We go now to Arizona and NPR's Ted Robbins. He is in Tucson with reaction to the Supreme Court's decision to hear the case.

TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: After having parts of Arizona's immigration law blocked by the Federal District Court in Phoenix and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer asked the Supreme Court to hear the case. So she was understandably happy when the court announced it would. In a written statement, Governor Brewer said she is confident the high court will uphold Arizona's constitutional authority and obligation to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens.

Then, as she has before, Governor Brewer blasted the federal government for not doing enough to fight illegal immigration.

I reached Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne in Phoenix on his cell phone. Horne says the law does nothing to infringe on federal sovereignty.

TOM HORNE: Well, yes, and I don't think we're infringing at all. The statute was passed to help the federal government. We agree that the federal government has a monopoly on the border itself, on the questions of who should come here and who should not come here - on immigration questions, and so on. But when people cross the border and enter our state and commit crimes here, then that becomes our problem.

ROBBINS: Arizona law-enforcement officials are split on whether the law is a good idea. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a famously vocal opponent of illegal immigration, welcomed it. His department has been enforcing every provision of the law which has not been blocked. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has said that he thinks the law is, in his words, B.S. Dupnik says his department already turns over illegal immigrants to the feds, and that the state law simply drains resources from fighting more serious crime - though both sheriffs have trained their deputies on how to enforce the law if and when it becomes fully effective,

Civil rights groups and Hispanic activists have protested the Arizona law from the start. They've taken to the streets as well as to the courts.

Cecilia Wang is a lawyer for the ACLU, one of the organizations opposing the law. She says the Supreme Court's intervention is premature since other, newer state immigration laws - in Alabama, Utah, Georgia, Indiana and South Carolina - are being challenged in lower courts around the country.

CECILIA WANG: So you would normally have the Supreme Court wait and see how the issue percolates in those other lower federal courts. But on the other hand, I think that, you know, the constitutional issues with regard to pre-emption are clear and hopefully, the court will step in and put an end to the proliferation of these state immigration laws.

ROBBINS: Cecilia Wang also points out that the only grounds the Supreme Court is considering in taking the Arizona case is pre-emption - that the federal government has the sole right to make immigration law. But other parts of SB 1070 have also been blocked. The provision which says day laborers cannot solicit work on public streets is being challenged as a First Amendment violation. Another section is being challenged on grounds that it requires illegal search and seizure.

WANG: When the Arizona Legislature passed SB 1070, there was great fear in Arizona on the ground - not only on the part of immigrant communities but all kinds of U.S. citizens, who realized that provisions that require the police to check people's papers are going to result in chaos and mass civil rights violations.

ROBBINS: So a ruling by the Supreme Court on part of the lower court's injunction may not be definitive, but it certainly would provide some clarity in Arizona as to whether more of the law can be enforced, and whether other state immigration laws are likely to face similar judgment. Ted Robbins, NPR News, Tucson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As supervising editor for Arts and Culture at NPR based at NPR West in Culver City, Ted Robbins plans coverage across NPR shows and online, focusing on TV at a time when there's never been so much content. He thinks "arts and culture" encompasses a lot of human creativity — from traditional museum offerings to popular culture, and out-of-the-way people and events.
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