28 Apr 2012

Supreme Court seen as siding with Arizona on immigration

5:38 am on 28 April 2012

There are signs the United States Supreme Court is going to side in favour of Arizona's tough immigration law being challenged by the Obama administration.

In a setback for the president, several justices have voiced support for the state's effort to crack down on illegal immigration, appearing to reject arguments it was an encroachment on federal responsibility.

"I felt very confident as I walked out of there that Arizona has a right, and I as governor was somewhat assured that I had a right, to protect the citizens of Arizona," governor Jan Brewer said.

The ABC reports the court's ruling is likely to set a precedent with Arizona the first of half a dozen states to pass laws allowing police to check the immigration status of anyone they detain and suspect of being illegally in the country.

Mexico and 17 other countries have filed arguments with the court opposing the law, saying the delegation of authority over such matters to individual states threatens bilateral relations with Washington.

Chief Justice John Roberts said the federal government's arguments could not centre on the civil rights issues, but rather on its claim under the constitution to exclusive authority in immigration matters.

He then went on to suggest the law's most controversial provisions were not an effort to over-ride federal law, but to support it.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the swing vote on the court, said Arizona was "cooperating in implementing federal law".

The court's conservative majority has been strengthened in this case because Justice Elena Kagan, who served as solicitor general under Mr Obama, recused herself, leaving only eight justices to hear the matter.

The ABC reports the court is expected to hand down its decision in June.