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Arizona immigration law: states vs. Obama at US Supreme Court, again

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As if that isn't enough drama, the same two lawyers who argued the health-care case are set to face off again in the Arizona dispute – Washington appellate lawyer Paul Clement and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli.

The question for the high court is whether Arizona and other states are entitled to pass state laws that mirror specific provisions in federal immigration statutes and strictly enforce those provisions even when the Obama administration has decided – as a matter of policy and budgetary constraint – not to enforce those same provisions.

"There is absolutely no conflict between these [Arizona] provisions and federal law because SB 1070 adopts the federal rule as its own," Mr. Clement writes in his brief on behalf of Arizona.

He adds: "Unless and until Congress expressly forecloses such efforts, Arizona has the inherent authority to add its own resources to the enforcement of federal laws."

Solicitor General Verrilli argues in his brief on behalf of the administration that the Constitution assigns matters of immigration and border enforcement exclusively to the national government. He adds that Congress gave the executive branch substantial discretion to decide how best to enforce the laws.

SB 1070 is an attempt by Arizona to impose state priorities in place of the president's national priorities, Verrilli says. Rather than attempting to arrest and deport all illegal immigrants, the Obama administration says it is focusing on violent criminals and those posing a potential national security threat.

"Arizona has adopted its own immigration policy, which focuses solely on maximum enforcement and pays no heed to the multifaceted judgments that the [federal immigration law] provides for the executive branch to make," Verrilli writes.

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