The decision left police chiefs and sheriffs grappling with questions ranging from what justifies reasonable suspicion that someone is in the country illegally to how long officers must wait when federal authorities are slow to respond to a question on someone's immigration status.
"It's uncharted territory," said Tony Estrada, sheriff of Santa Cruz County on the state's southern border with Mexico. "It's going to be challenging. It's a complicated issue, and it's not going to be solved by this particular decision."
Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor estimates the statute will result in 50,000 additional calls a year to federal immigration authorities in his city alone. That includes 36,000 arrests a year for suspects who are not booked into jail, typically for offenses like disorderly conduct, misdemeanor assault, shoplifting, vandalism and driving more than 25 mph over the speed limit.
Those suspects, who would normally be released with a citation, must be booked into custody if immigration authorities "don't answer the phone, they never call us back after we talk to them or whatever," Villaseñor said.
An estimated 14,000 inquiries a year will be for people encountered on street patrol who are not arrested, Villaseñor said. They may raise suspicion for their manner of dress, language or other characteristics outlined in guidelines issues to law enforcement agencies statewide.
"I'm not sure (the federal government is) set up to accommodate that workload right now. I hope I'm wrong," said Villaseñor, who joined Dupnik and other law enforcement in voicing opposition to the 2010 law in a filing to the Supreme Court.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security acknowledged concern about a flood of inquiries but signaled it would only deport people who meet its enforcement priorities. Those priorities are repeat immigration violators, people who pose a public safety or national security threat and recent border crossers.