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Not all states with immigration laws will backpedal after Supreme Court ruling

States with tough immigration laws – like the one the Supreme Court mostly invalidated from Arizona – are assessing adjustments they may need to make. Not all foresee changes.

By Staff writer / June 26, 2012

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer leaves a news conference responding to the United States Supreme Court decision regarding Arizona's controversial immigration law, SB1070, at the Arizona Capitol Monday, June 25, in Phoenix.

Ross D. Franklin/AP

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The US Supreme Court’s immigration ruling – telling states, in effect, to butt out of immigration control, which is a federal responsibility – reverberated across the country on Monday and struck, in particular, a handful of states that had followed Arizona in approving tough laws targeting illegal immigrants.

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In Alabama, Georgia, Utah, Indiana, Tennessee, and, of course, Arizona, lawmakers and legal analysts are holding up their state laws to the court decision to see what adjustments might need to be made now that the Supreme Court has spoken.


The US 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will now find it more difficult to uphold key parts of Alabama’s law, which many see as even tougher than the Arizona statute that the high court addressed this week.

The Supreme Court struck down any hint of states setting up their own immigration bureaucracies – such as penalties Arizona’s law had imposed upon people who were in the state illegally. That could affect aspects of Alabama's law, including requirements that public schools keep count of undocumented students. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange acknowledged that Monday's ruling will affect the state’s law, “along with those of several other states.”


The same federal circuit court is taking a look at Georgia’s 2011 immigration omnibus law, but its fate is more uncertain than is the Alabama law's. Georgia's law allows police to check immigration status for people they have reason to believe are in the country illegally, and the Supreme Court on Monday permitted that sort of status check to go ahead despite its concerns about possible racial profiling, saying it might take another look at thet issue after it has a track record. Some analysts say the Georgia provision will be safe if police officers check the immigration status of everyone they detain. 


State lawmakers say Utah's more restrained immigration law – police there, for example, can ascertain someone's immigration status only during the investigation of serious crimes, and illegal immigrants are still allowed to drive – will likely survive in its entirety in the wake of the Supreme Court decision.


A provision in Indiana's immigration law that says illegal immigrants can be arrested by local police for making false statements in official paperwork, including welfare applications, is now suspect. The Supreme Court ruling expressly forbids Arizona from “criminalizing” illegal immigrants by creating new classes of crime and punishment, which Indiana seems to have done with its law.



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