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Most of Arizona immigration law cannot stand, Supreme Court rules

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Scalia also criticized President Obama’s June 15 decision to exempt from immigration enforcement some 1.4 million sons and daughters of illegal immigrants.

“Thousands of Arizona’s estimated 400,000 illegal immigrants – including not just children but men and women under 30 – are now assured immunity from enforcement, and will be able to compete openly with Arizona citizens for employment,” he said. “Arizona has moved to protect its sovereignty – not in contradiction of federal law,” Scalia said, “but in complete compliance with it.”

The decision is neither a clear victory nor a clear defeat for Mr. Obama. While the high court ruling reaffirms broad authority of the federal government to determine priorities for immigration enforcement, the justices nonetheless allowed the most controversial aspect of the law to remain in place.

The decision grants a green light to other states to adopt similar “show me your papers” provisions. But Justice Kennedy was careful to warn Arizona and other states about the real possibility of excesses during enforcement.

“There is a basic uncertainty about what the law means and how it will be enforced,” he wrote. “At this stage, without the benefit of a definitive interpretation from the state courts, it would be inappropriate to assume [the police check provision] will be construed in a way that creates conflict with federal law,” Kennedy said.

He added: “This opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect.”

In a statement, Mr. Obama said the inconclusive high court decision illustrated the continuing need for comprehensive immigration reform.

“A patchwork of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system – it’s part of the problem,” Obama said.

“I remain concerned about the practical impact of the remaining provision of the Arizona law,” he said. “Going forward, we must ensure that Arizona law enforcement officials do not enforce this law in a manner that undermines the civil rights of Americans.”

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