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Arizona State Immigration Laws

Arizona Senate Bill 1070 is one of the toughest immigration laws in the United States. But a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling whittled the law down significantly. A 2016 settlement between Arizona and immigrants' rights groups affected its use as well.

SB 1070 invites many questions about U.S. immigration. Many of the SB 1070 provisions have faced challenges in court. They may continue to be subject to legal problems in their enforcement.

In this article, you'll also find information about immigration services in the state and other aspects of Arizona immigration law. Topics discussed include:

Local Law Enforcement and Immigration in Arizona

Arizona was one of the first states to mandate that police conduct immigration status checks on certain people. They must do so whenever "reasonable suspicion exists" that a person is unlawfully in the country. At the behest of local governments, local law enforcement officers were some of the first to run these checks.

Under SB 1070, officers also had to verify the immigration status of "suspicious" people with federal authorities. If a person were in the U.S. illegally, local police would transfer them to the custody of federal immigration authorities. But these provisions are no longer part of the law. Instead, a federal program tracks the names of all people convicted in a database that checks their immigration status.

Challenges to Arizona Senate Bill 1070

Arizona Senate Bill 1070 became law in April 2010. The governor of Arizona at the time, Jan Brewer, called it a solution to a federal problem, saying it would also make the state safer and promote legal immigration. But, provisions in the law have seen many legal challenges. Opponents say provisions in Senate Bill 1070 invite and encourage violations of civil rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued, "discriminatory laws like SB 1070 invite racial profiling of Latinos and others who may look or sound 'foreign,' including many U.S. citizens who have lived in America their entire lives."

Before the law could take effect, the U.S. Department of Justice attempted to prevent the enforcement of it in federal district court. The district court did not grant every aspect of the injunction requested by the U.S. government. But it did grant four of the requested injunctions.

The federal judge blocked the parts of SB 1070 that, at the state level, criminalized:

  • Unlawful presence in the United States
  • Working or seeking work in the U.S. without having authorization to do so or having legal eligibility to work in the U.S.

At the same time, that federal district court blocked two more provisions within the bill:

  • Law enforcement officers' ability to verify the status of any person lawfully arrested or detained
  • The authorization of warrantless searches of people believed to be subject to removal from the United States

The state of Arizona appealed the district court's decision to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. That Circuit Court upheld the district court's decision. So, Arizona appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court in Arizona v. United States.

In 2012, SCOTUS overturned the lower court's decision to prohibit the enforcement of certain rules within SB 1070. In that decision, the Supreme Court ruled that SB 1070's heavy sanctions on employers who did not run citizenship checks on applicants and workers were unconstitutional. The bill had allowed for penalties for any failure to investigate the citizenship statuses of workers.

But, the court did leave one provision in place. The justices said that requiring police to investigate the citizenship status of lawfully arrested or detained persons did not violate federal law. The Supreme Court reasoned that the only real consequence of this part of SB 1070 was and is to allow state police officers to communicate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during arrests. And SCOTUS did not consider this unconstitutional.

The day after SCOTUS' decision, the Attorney General of the United States at the time, Eric Holder, applauded the Supreme Court. Holder said, "I welcome the Supreme Court's decision to strike down major provisions of Arizona's S.B. 1070 on federal preemption grounds."

As a result of the bill, Arizona has gotten far more attention across the U.S. about whether its immigration policies are too harsh. For example, law enforcement officials in the state have been under increased public scrutiny since the passage of SB 1070. Opponents of these policies argue that they give law enforcement an excuse to over-penalize noncitizens for minor crimes.

Employment and E-Verify Requirements

The "Legal Arizona Workers Act" bars employers from knowingly hiring unauthorized workers. The act is also known as Sections 23-211 to 23-214 of the Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.).

The consequences for violating these sections include warnings to comply. They also include permanent loss of any required business licenses. State laws also criminalize immigrants without proper documentation who apply for or solicit for work.

The Legal Arizona Workers Act also requires that all employers in the state use E-Verify. It requires that employers do so to prevent the employment of unauthorized workers.

The Supreme Court of the United States upheld the Legal Arizona Workers Act over legal challenges. These challenges claim that the law ran afoul of federal immigration laws. The Supreme Court ruled that Arizona's law fell within the authority left to the states by Congress on the subject.

Employers should also refer to:

Driver's License/ID Requirements

Arizona does not issue licenses to immigrants without proper documentation. It requires that every applicant for an original state ID card show verification of birth date and proof of legal residency. The same is true of driver's licenses.

Public Benefits and Immigration Status

Under federal law, immigrants living here illegally can't get public benefits. But they can use emergency services. The same is true of emergency health care and other programs that are "necessary to protect life and safety."

Educational or Tuition Restrictions

Arizona bans state schools from offering in-state tuition benefits to students without proper documentation.

Voter ID Rules

Arizona law requires that voters present ID documents. These are either a photo ID or two forms from a list of valid, acceptable documents. Those documents must bear the name and address of the voter. Examples include a recent utility bill or bank or credit union statement. They also include vehicle registrations or insurance statements. Voters who fail to show valid identification can still vote using a provisional ballot. But they will have to establish their eligibility to vote within five business days of the election.

Housing Ordinances and Immigration

Some in Arizona have made efforts to ban renting to immigrants living here illegally. But there is no statewide ban. Ordinances that restrict access to housing typically face legal challenges. Such challenges have had varying results. Because of the federal Fair Housing Act, it's illegal to discriminate in housing.

Related Resources

Call an Immigration Attorney About Your Arizona Immigration Law Issue

The federal government holds exclusive jurisdiction over immigration law matters. But, most states have laws that address immigration and affect immigrants. Arizona has some of the strictest immigration-related laws in the country. Whether in Tucson, Phoenix, or anywhere in the state, an immigration attorney can help. They can help if you are facing deportation or need help identifying your alien registration number.

It can be scary to navigate the immigration and naturalization system on your own. If you have questions or need immediate help, your best bet is to contact an immigration law attorney near you who will work on your behalf.

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