PHOENIX -- Arizona’s most controversial immigration law is scheduled to go before the U.S. Supreme Court in April. That’s just in time for a reenergized debate over states' rights in the 2012 election.
That immigration debate has not changed much since Arizona’s legislature passed SB 1070 last year. How far can Arizona, or any state for that matter, go to enforce immigration law? The question has lingered ever since, and national progress addressing comprehensive immigration reform has stalled.
"The timing of this holding is going to make it very difficult for Republicans and Democrats to ignore the issue," said Jon Feere, with the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C.
He said the Supreme Court’s ruling will force politicians running for Congress and the White House to take a clear stand.
"So far, we have heard a lot of talk from the Republican candidates about border security, which is important," Feere said. "But obviously immigration is a much bigger issue than that. This has the potential to widen the debate into states’ rights, and of course, whether or not states can get more involved in federal enforcement."
The Supreme Court announced that it would hear the case this spring after a lower court stopped Arizona from enforcing key parts of the law.
This week's announcement pleased Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who said all states deserve clarity.
"It’s about every state grappling with the costs of illegal immigration," Brewer said. "It’s about the fundamental principals of federalism under which every state has a right to defend its people."
Brewer said SB 1070 has already shaped the presidential race. She pointed to the attention the issue of immigration reform has gotten in Republican debates.
"I think it’s a flash point in this election," she said.
Brewer said she’s confident the court will uphold Arizona’s right to enforce the immigration law and defend its people.
The Obama administration is fighting similar legislation in Alabama, South Carolina and Utah.