The Supreme Court hinted Wednesday that it may uphold a key element of Arizona's illegal immigration law; the ruling would come as a blow to President Obama’s justice department that has sued Arizona over the state's law.
All of the justices have suggested the state has a serious problem regarding illegal immigration and that some level of sovereignty is needed to protect its southern border, according to an AP story.
The justices seemed willing to allow a provision requiring police officers to check the immigration status of people they think are in the U.S. illegally to stand. The provision is a key element of the suit brought by Obama’s justice department through his Attorney General, Eric Holder.
Wednesday, the country’s highest court justices “strongly suggested” they don’t agree with the Obama administration's argument that the state exceeded its authority.
At one point, Chief Justice John Roberts said “he doesn't think the federal government even wants to know how many illegal immigrants are in the country.”
"You can see it's not selling very well," said Justice Sonia Sotomayor to Obama administration Solicitor General Donald Verrilli.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer was loudly booed by the law's opponents in front of the courthouse, however, she said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that "I am filled with optimism -- the kind that comes with knowing that Arizona's cause is just and its course is true."
There is not yet any indication what the court would do with other aspects of the law that have been put on hold by lower federal courts, however if the court rules that Arizona police have the right to inquire about one’s immigration status during a traffic stop or other police action, the state’s immigration law would likely remain mostly intact.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach also voiced optimism in Arizona's chances. Kobach was involved in drafting the legislation.
"This was a very good day for Arizona in the Supreme Court today," he told Fox News. "The U.S. Justice Department was on the ropes."
Opponents are concerned the law amounts to profiling and Democrats are using the issue to attack Republicans and to appease Hispanic voters.
The Obama administration has argued that the country cannot sustain a patchwork of separate immigration laws, but proponents say the Obama administration is working against border states that have severe costs and wide-ranging criminal activity associated with illegal immigration and human trafficking.
Verrilli, arguing for the federal government, claimed only the Executive Branch has the power to enforce immigration policy.
"For each state, and each locality, to set its own immigration policy in that fashion would wholly subvert Congress' goal: a single, national approach," he wrote.
But Arizona argued that the current system is broken, and that the state is paying an unfair price for that failure.
"Arizona shoulders a disproportionate burden of the national problem of illegal immigration," attorney Paul Clement argued in his brief. He argued that enforcement attention in California and Texas has turned the Arizona border into a funnel for illegal immigrants, with a third of illegal border crossings occurring there.