The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday over challenges to an Arizona statute that threatens to punish businesses if they knowingly hire illegal immigrant workers.
While the federal government generally has authority over immigration, lawyers for Arizona argued that the federal government’s failure to do its job required the state to act, according to an Associated Press article.
The Arizona law was challenged by business interests and civil liberties groups, who were supported by the Obama administration. Critics say the Arizona law amounts to a “business death penalty” and infringes on the national government, according to a McClatchy report about the case, which is entitled U.S. Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting.
“The Supreme Court offered tenuous support” for the law, reported CNN. The AP said the court appeared “likely…to sustain” the law, and Lyle Denniston wrote in SCOTUSblog of “indications that Arizona’s anti-immigration law will survive its challenge in the Court.”
Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case. The former U.S. solicitor general has recused herself from hearing a number of matters where she had some involvement in a case in lower courts.
A more controversial Arizona immigration law (see Gavel Grab) could reach the Supreme Court later. The law would allow local police a larger role in arresting people whom they suspect came illegally to the United States.
In an editorial published in advance of Wednesday’s arguments, the Arizona Republic said the high court “has the opportunity to drive home a fundamental principle: Immigration is strictly a federal responsibility.”
A Washington Post editorial said the case “should serve as a wake-up call for Capitol Hill and the White House and spur action on much-needed comprehensive immigration reform.”