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Most of Arizona immigration law cannot stand, Supreme Court rules

But the Supreme Court upheld a provision requiring police to check the immigration status of people they have reason to suspect are illegal immigrants – the most controversial part of the Arizona immigration law.

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In Phoenix, members of Promise Arizona, Leonila Martinez (l.), Patricia Rosas, and Gustavo Cruz (r.), react to the United States Supreme Court decision regarding Arizona's controversial immigration law, as the ruling came down on Monday.

Ross D. Franklin/AP

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The US Supreme Court struck down three sections of Arizona’s tough immigration enforcement law on Monday but upheld its most controversial provision –requiring police to check the immigration status of individuals they have reason to suspect are illegal immigrants.

In a 5-to-3 decision, the high court ruled that three of the four challenged provisions of the Arizona statute, known as SB 1070, interfered with the US government’s enforcement of federal immigration law and thus must be struck down as preempted.

“The national government has significant power to regulate immigration,” Justice Anthony Kennedy said in the majority opinion. “Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration…, but the state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.”

In a dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia criticized the Obama administration’s selective enforcement of federal immigration laws.  

“To say, as the court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of the Immigration Act that the President declines to enforce boggles the mind,” Justice Scalia said. “The [Arizona] laws under challenge here do not extend or revise federal immigration restrictions, but merely enforce those restrictions more effectively,” he said.

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