UHLC Law Professor Hoffman dissects controversial immigration case

Supreme Court to determine the constitutionality of Arizona’s S.B. 1070

Prof Hoffman

University of Houston Law Center Professor Geoffrey A. Hoffman delivered a legal briefing at the American Civil Liberties Union following U.S. Supreme Court arguments in Arizona v. United States.

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April 25, 2012 – University of Houston Law Center Professor Geoffrey A. Hoffman offered a comprehensive legal analysis of arguments heard today by the Supreme Court on the validity of Arizona’s controversial immigration law S.B. 1070. Provoking a bitter national debate, the law aims to discourage undocumented immigrants from entering or remaining in the state.

To see the full briefing click here for the video.

To see Prof. Hoffman’s blog post click here.

“The broad, overarching issue as portrayed in the briefs on both sides in Arizona v. United States is whether a state has an ‘inherent authority’ to enforce the nation’s federal immigration laws or whether such a state’s ‘experimentation’ is preempted under the Supremacy Clause,” said Hoffman during the briefing sponsored by the ACLU of Texas.

Of the four provisions in S.B. 1070 that have been blocked by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, two create new state law crimes for “failure to register,” criminalizing undocumented immigrants' presence in Arizona under state law, and for seeking, applying for, or performing unauthorized work.  Another authorizes police officers to arrest immigrants without a warrant where “probable cause” exists that they committed any public offense making them removable from the country. The fourth requires state and local law enforcement officers to attempt to determine the immigration status of any person stopped under state or local law if “reasonable suspicion” exists that the person is unlawfully present in the United States.

The Obama administration is arguing the law should be preempted because immigration policy should be handled by the federal government, not states. Arizona contends immigration is not exclusively a federal matter and the state has the right to act.

“The federal government has clearly occupied the field and created a complex system related to immigration laws,” Hoffman said. “What Arizona has proposed is a scheme that frustrates or hinders that federal system.”

The briefing also included remarks by ACLU of Texas Executive Director Terri Burke as well as Advocacy and Policy Counsel Krystal Gomez.

“The Texas legislature refused in 2011 to enact a law similar to this one,” Burke said. “Regardless what the Supreme Court rules, Texans should be mindful that these anti-immigrant laws are costly, divisive and fundamentally un-American.”

According to Gomez, the decision will have far-reaching implications in that since SB 1070 became law in 2010, five other states have enacted similarly stringent immigration laws, and dozens have considered them.

“There’s an economic backlash in states where these kinds of laws have been passed,” Gomez said. “States have seen a decline in tourism, negative impact on agriculture, and the loss of tax revenue. Texas can’t afford a copycat of this law.”

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