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Supreme Court ruling on immigration law gives guidance to states

During the past couple of months we have mentioned that the outcome of a highly important immigration case before the Supreme Court could have a significant effect on the North Carolina General Assembly's attempts to create state immigration legislation. The General Assembly now has its guidance as the Supreme Court released its opinion today on Arizona's own immigration law.

At issue was whether four of the state's immigration rules impermissibly conflicted with federal law, rendering them unconstitutional. In declaring three of the laws invalid, the court noted that the federal government has broad authority to regulate immigration matters. Without that single, unified voice on immigration, foreign governments and immigrants living here might have to confront a confusing patchwork of 50 slightly different sets of laws on the subject.

But the court left standing one crucial part of the law, under which immigrants who are stopped or arrested could be forced to provide proof of their status if law enforcement believes they are in the country illegally. The court did not offer resounding approval of this provision, however. If police abuse its application, future legal challenges could also strike it down, the court indicated.

Two of the three unconstitutional aspects of Arizona's law were a couple of criminal proscriptions. That state had made it a misdemeanor for immigrants to seek work without the correct paperwork or for them to lack documentation reflecting their immigration status. The third provision gave police the power to arrest anyone they had probable cause to believe had committed an offense that would make them subject to deportation proceedings.

It is unknown what course members of the General Assembly will take in response to the Supreme Court's decision, but immigrants in North Carolina should pay close attention to any immigration laws that may be passed in the coming months.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Supreme Court Allows Immigration Checks," Jess Bravin, June 25, 2012.

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