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Supreme Court Arizona ruling could shape immigration reform

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a challenge to a 2007 Arizona law penalizing employers who hire undocumented migrants.

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A decision from the nation’s top court will bring clarity to immigration disputes nationwide, says Daniel Giaquinto, an attorney with the New Jersey-based law firm of Kern Augustine Conroy & Schoppmann. “The sooner Arizona has an answer to these questions, the sooner the whole nation has answers … and the sooner we can move on and get a policy that works,” he says.

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In addition to giving clarity to Arizona and other states, the Supreme Court's decision could more formal momentum for comprehensive immigration reform, say analysts.

“This translates into added pressure on Congress to take up the immigration reform overhaul it failed to accomplish in 2007,” says William Perez, Associate Professor of Education, Claremont Graduate University.

He says the Arizona case clearly highlights that the federal government's inaction is encouraging states to implement de facto immigration regulation.

He and others point out that the Justice Department's legal challenge of Arizona's SB 1070 means that along with business and civil rights organizations, the executive and judicial branches of the federal government will be pressing Congress to take up immigration reform legislation.

“If the Supreme Court rules that the 2007 Arizona law is in violation of federal jurisdiction, this may well mean that Comprehensive Immigration Reform will be a top legislative priority when Congress resumes after the November elections,” says Perez.

Besides the fact that several states have been wrestling with the “federal pre-emption” doctrine, legal analysts say the other reason the US Supreme Court took the case is to help clarify apparent division between lower courts.

The 9th Circuit Federal Court has already upheld the Arizona law. But the 10th circuit in Oklahoma struck down a similar law. Most analysts are loathe to predict what the final outcome will be. Arguments and ruling will be in an upcoming term that begins in October.