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Supreme Court upholds parts of tough Arizona immigration law

The Supreme Court ruled Arizona police can stop and questions suspected illegal immigrants. But police must check with federal officials before detaining suspected illegal immigrants.

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Mark Jenkins (L), an opponent of Arizona Senate Bill 1070 and Blake Sutherland, a supporter of the bill, discuss their opposite viewpoints outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington in April.

REUTERS/Gary Cameron/Files

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The US Supreme Court, in a major immigration ruling, upheld parts of Arizona’s strict law targeting illegal immigrants, but said the federal government has the ultimate authority to decide who will be held on immigration charges and deported.

The decision is a partial victory for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer as well as for President Obama, whose administration had sued to block the state law from taking effect.

The justices said Arizona’s police can stop, question and briefly detain immigrants if officers have reason to believe they are in the country illegally. This was seen as a key part of the state’s law.

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But the justices said the police have limited authority. They must check with federal immigration agents before deciding to hold the suspects.

The justices also blocked parts of Arizona’s SB 1070 that would have made it a state crime for illegal immigrants to fail to carry documents or to seek work.

The court’s decision appears to give states such as Arizona a quite limited role in enforcing the laws against illegal immigrants. Their police can notify federal agents if they have a suspect in custody, but they cannot keep them in a county jail on state charges.

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©2012 Tribune Co.

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