WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday declined to consider a case concerning a tough 2011 Alabama immigration law that makes it a crime to harbor or transport immigrants not authorized to be in the United States or to induce them to enter or live in the state. The move left in place an appeals court ruling blocking the law.
The justices, as is their custom, offered no reasons for turning down the appeal. Justice Antonin Scalia noted his dissent but also offered no reasoning.
The question in the case, Alabama v. United States, No. 12-884, was whether the Alabama law conflicted with a similar federal law. In August, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit blocked the state law at the request of the Obama administration, saying federal immigration law and policy “comprehensively addresses criminal penalties for these actions undertaken within the borders of the United States, and a state’s attempt to intrude into this area is prohibited because Congress has adopted a calibrated framework.”
The Supreme Court has recently considered state efforts to address illegal immigration in connection with two Arizona laws.
Last June, the court delivered a split decision on a 2010 Arizona law, upholding its most hotly debated provision but blocking others on the grounds that they interfered with the federal government’s role in setting immigration policy.
The court unanimously but tentatively sustained the law’s centerpiece, the one critics have called its “show me your papers” provision, leaving the door open to further challenges. The provision requires state law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest if they have reason to suspect that the individual might be in the country illegally.
But the court blocked three other provisions in the 2010 law, including one that would have subjected people in the country illegally to criminal penalties for activities like seeking work.
“The national government has significant power to regulate immigration,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority. “The sound exercise of national power over immigration depends on the nation’s meeting its responsibility to base its laws on a political will informed by searching, thoughtful, rational civic discourse.”
In 2011, the court upheld a decision finding that a different Arizona law, this one imposing harsh penalties on businesses that hire illegal workers, was not pre-empted by federal law. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, said the state law “simply seeks to enforce” a federal ban on hiring illegal workers.