The Supreme Court’s ruling on the Arizona law has already began to create ripple effects in other states that had passed their own immigration laws. Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Utah all passed very strict immigration laws, many of which were challenged in court and were put on hold until the Arizona case was decided. Given that the verdict is already out, these states are now scrambling to interpret the federal ruling in an effort to implement their state immigration law. Last year federal courts had decided that Georgia’s immigration law interfered with federal power and authority, yet now the Supreme Court’s decision has injected a whole new interpretation that is vague enough for them to argue that the state can move forward with a similar provision, which is exactly what Georgia’s Attorney General’s Office is saying. However, civil rights groups disagree with the state’s interpretation.
Furthermore, they point out that if Georgia’s law were to be implemented it would violate the Supreme Court’s decision because it would allow police to investigate those who cannot produce documentation proving their status, and it would allow for their detention and incarceration. These groups argue that the Supreme Court’s decision clearly prohibits this kind of action when it stated that detaining people “solely to verify their immigration status would raise constitutional concerns.” It is now up to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to decide which course of action is most appropriate given the Supreme Court ruling on the immigration law.
Georgia is not the only state to have put its law on hold; Alabama and South Carolina did so too. Alabama has similarly argued that the state should be allowed to move forward with parts of its law because they claim it falls within the parameters of the federal ruling. Yet civil rights groups have argued the opposite on the grounds that Alabama’s law would allow police to detain suspects for up to 48 hours to determine their immigration state, which violates the Court’s decision. In these two states, attorneys from both sides are working double time to petition the federal appeals courts to reconsider the crackdown in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling. Georgia has already filed petitions arguing that its law should be upheld since they allege it is similar to the law enacted by Arizona.
However, Alabama has conceded that parts of its law are similar to those of the Arizona law that were blocked by the Supreme Court decision. Regardless, they are petitioning the court to allow for other parts of the law to be allowed to go into effect, including a provision that requires public schools to check the citizenship status of all new students. We, however, strongly believe that both states are overstepping their authority in passing laws that encroach on the federal government’s power to pass immigration legislation—a right that was determined by the Arizona decision to fall under the power of the federal government alone.
For that reason, if the appeals courts were to stay true to the law they would set a permanent injunction prohibiting the laws from going into effect in each state, yet we have already seen that expectations many times fall short of reality. That is why we have no other remedy than to wait and see what interpretation the courts make of the Supreme Court’s ruling, and can only hope for the best for the sake of all the residents of those states.