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Justices Signal Support For Arizona Immigration Law

The early analyses of this morning's Supreme Court hearing on parts of Arizona's controversial immigration law are in, and the consensus is that the majority of justices will likely uphold the state's effort to reduce the number of people within its borders who may be there illegally.

The Associated Press says "Supreme Court justices strongly suggested Wednesday that they are ready to allow Arizona to enforce part of a controversial state law requiring police officers to check the immigration status of people they think are in the country illegally."

SCOTUSBlog's Lyle Denniston writes that

"It did not take long for Justice Antonin Scalia to side with Arizona, and it was not much later that Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., showed that he, too, was inclined that way. Justice Clarence Thomas, who said nothing during the argument, is known to be totally opposed to the kind of technical legal challenge that the government has mounted against S.B. 1070.

"That left Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Samuel A. Alito, Jr., as the ones that might be thought most likely to help make a majority for Arizona. Their questioning, less pointed, made them somewhat less predictable.

"The Court's three more liberal Justices — Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor — offered what appeared to be a less than enthusiastic support for the federal government's challenge."

Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself from the case, most likely because she was solicitor general early in the Obama administration and took part in discussions about the the Arizona law.

According to The Washington Post, "justices seemed skeptical of the Obama administration's claim that a requirement that police check the immigration status of those arrested or detained was an impermissible intrusion on Congress's power to set immigration policy and the executive branch's ability to implement it."

And Reuters concludes that:

"The conservative justices who hold a majority on the court suggested by their questions and comments that states would have significant latitude to adopt laws that discourage illegal immigrants from moving to and staying in the United States.

"Justice Anthony Kennedy, who casts the deciding vote in many cases, referred to the 'social and economic disruption' that states endure as a result of a flood of illegal immigrants and suggested that states such as Arizona have authority to act."

The court is due to issue its decision by late June.

NPR's Nina Totenberg is scheduled to have more on all this later today, on All Things Considered. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show.

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