Compelling Quotes From the Arizona v. United States Supreme Court Opinion and Dissent (Not Relating to Discretion)

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 12062850 (posted Jun. 28, 2012)"

Haven't had time to read the Supreme Court decision on Arizona v. United States in its entirety?

We've compiled some of the most compelling quotes from the majority opinion and Justice Scalia's dissent. (Quotes relating to the President's Authority to Exercise Discretion are here.)

Notable excerpts from the Majority Opinion by Justice Kennedy

  • The correct instruction to draw from the text, structure, and history of IRCA is that Congress decided it would be inappropriate to impose criminal penalties on unauthorized employees. It follows that a state law to the contrary is an obstacle to the regulatory system Congress chose. (Page 3, Syllabus)
  • Congress has made clear, however, that any information employees submit to indicate their work status "may not be used" for purposes other than prosecution under specified federal criminal statutes for fraud, perjury, and related conduct. (Page 13)
  • The legislative background of IRCA underscores the fact that Congress made a deliberate choice not to impose criminal penalties on aliens who seek, or engage in, unauthorized employment. (Page 13)
  • In the end, IRCA's framework reflects a considered judgment that making criminals out of aliens engaged in unauthorized work-aliens who already face the possibility of employer exploitation because of their removable status-would be inconsistent with federal policy and objectives. (Page 14)
  • Under §5(C) of S. B. 1070, Arizona law would interfere with the careful balance struck by Congress with respect to unauthorized employment of aliens. (Page 15)
  • Detaining individuals solely to verify their immigration status would raise constitutional concerns. (Page 22)
  • And it would disrupt the federal framework to put state officers in the position of holding aliens in custody for possible unlawful presence without federal direction and supervision. Cf. Part IV-C, supra (concluding that Arizona may not authorize warrantless arrests on the basis of removability). (Page 22)
  • To take one example, a person might be stopped for jaywalking in Tucson and be unable to produce identification. The first sentence of §2(B) instructs officers to make a "reasonable" attempt to verify his immigration status with ICE if there is reasonable suspicion that his presence in the United States is unlawful. The state courts may conclude that, unless the person continues to be suspected of some crime for which he may be detained by state officers, it would not be reasonable to prolong the stop for the immigration inquiry. (Page 22)
  • There is no need in this case to address whether reasonable suspicion of illegal entry or another immigration crime would be a legitimate basis for prolonging a detention, or whether this too would be preempted by federal law. (Page 23)

Notable quotes from Justice Scalia's Dissent:

  • ...deprives States of what most would consider the defining characteristic of sovereignty: the power to exclude from the sovereign's territory people who have no right to be there. (Page 1)
  • The most important point is that, as we have discussed, Arizona is entitled to have "its own immigration policy"-including a more rigorous enforcement policy-so long as that does not conflict with federal law. The Court says, as though the point is utterly dispositive, that "it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States," ante, at 15. It is not a federal crime, to be sure. But there is no reason Arizona cannot make it a state crime for a removable alien (or any illegal alien, for that matter) to remain present in Arizona. (Page 12)
  • But we have no license to assume, without any support in the record, that Arizona officials would use their arrest authority under §6 to harass anyone. And it makes no difference that federal officials might "determine [that some unlawfully present aliens] should not be removed," ibid. They may well determine not to remove from the United States aliens who have no right to be here; but unless and until these aliens have been given the right to remain, Arizona is entitled to arrest them and at least bring them to federal officials' attention, which is all that §6 necessarily entails. (In my view, the State can go further than this, and punish them for their unlawful entry and presence in Arizona.) (Page 13)
  • It is one thing to say that the Supremacy Clause prevents Arizona law from excluding those whom federal law admits. It is quite something else to say that a violation of Arizona law cannot be punished more severely than a violation of federal law. Especially where (as here) the State is defending its own sovereign interests, there is no precedent for such a limitation. (Page 15-16)