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Arizona may not enforce key parts of immigration law, court rules

Arizona officials criticize the appeals court ruling, which found that key sections of the immigration law are preempted by federal law. The ruling is a victory for the Obama administration.

By Staff writer / April 11, 2011

An Arizona court ruled out key parts of the states new immigration law, making some call it a win for Obama. However, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, pictured here, says the ruling will be overturned by the United States Supreme Court.

Jack Kurtz/ZUMA Press/Newscom

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A federal appeals court ruled on Monday that key sections of Arizona’s tough immigration statute are preempted by federal law and may not be enforced, handing an important victory to the Obama administration and eliciting criticism from Arizona officials.

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The three-judge panel said the key sections undercut a national scheme enacted by Congress and would complicate the conduct of US foreign policy.

The court also said the finding on preemption was warranted by the “threat of 50 states layering their own immigration enforcement rules on top of [federal immigration statutes].”

“There can be no constitutional application of a statute that, on its face, conflicts with congressional intent and therefore is preempted by the supremacy clause,” wrote Judge Richard Paez for the panel of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Under the Constitution, federal law is the supreme law of the land. When a federal law clashes with a state law, it is up to the courts to decide whether the state law is preempted by the federal law.

The Obama administration took Arizona to court last summer to block a state immigration enforcement measure that Justice Department lawyers said would frustrate federal immigration policies.

Monday’s ruling sets the stage for an expected appeal to the US Supreme Court and possible oral argument at the high court in 2012 – a presidential election year.

Arizona officials defiant

After reading the decision, Arizona officials were defiant. “I believe the Ninth Circuit decision will be overturned by the United States Supreme Court, and I pledge to make every possible effort to achieve that result,” said Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne.

Governor Jan Brewer said the appeals court ruling “does harm to the safety and well-being of Arizonans who suffer the negative effects of illegal immigration.”

The Arizona law, known as SB 1070, touched off a heated national debate last year over immigration policies and enforcement. Bills reflecting Arizona’s get-tough attitude were introduced in six states in 2010: Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. None passed, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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