When a state law attempts to interfere with a comprehensive framework of federal law and policy on a certain topic, the state law may be invalidated. That is the import of the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear an appeal taken from a decision of a federal appellate court. The appellate court had ruled that a state’s harsh immigration law was invalid and pre-empted by federal law. California and all states cannot pass laws that transgress into the domain of federal supremacy over immigration law and policy.
By refusing to hear the appeal, the Supreme Court let stand the ruling that the state law was pre-empted. The state law made it a crime to harbor or transport illegal immigrants or induce them to enter or live in the state. A refusal to hear the appeal has the effect of upholding the ruling of the case below.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals had struck down the Alabama statute saying that it conflicted with, and was pre-empted by, federal immigration law and policy. The Supreme Court has also grappled with similar immigration laws in Arizona. It upheld part of a strict 2010 Arizona law but struck down other parts of it. The main provision, which the Court tentatively upheld, allows authorities in Arizona to demand to see proof of immigration status of anyone the stop or arrest.
In the Arizona decision, the Supreme Court did strike down the provision of the statute that criminally penalized illegal immigrants for activities like seeking work. In 2011, the Supreme Court upheld another Arizona law, which harshly penalizes businesses that employ illegal immigrants. The checkered record of decisions leaves some ambiguity in what states can and cannot do in the area of immigration legislation.
In California, if you face immigration law issues it is best to have a consultation with a professional who practices in that area of the law. This will give you an opportunity to get your specific questions answered privately and confidentially. There may also be new remedies or optional procedures that you’ll discover by obtaining such a consultation.
Source: The New York Times, “Supreme Court Declines Case on Alabama Immigration Law,” Adam Liptak, April 29, 2013