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Supreme Court to hear arguments on Arizona immigration law

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David Brancaccio: The U.S. Supreme Court next week hears arguments for and against several contested sections of Arizona’s new immigration law — which makes it a crime for undocumented immigrants to live or work in that state. The Department of Justice has challenged the law, saying immigration is a federal issue.

Marketplace’s John Dimsdale has been following this and joins us live from Washington. Hello John.

John Dimsdale: Hello David.

Brancaccio: Remind us what the Arizona law does.

Dimsdale: It allows state and local police the right to ask for proof of citizenship and gives them the right to arrest anyone without documents. And that’s different than federal immigration rules. They focus on employers; Arizona lawmakers decided to attack the supply side of labor, going after the workers rather than the companies who hire them.

But Richard Samp, who’s a chief counsel at the Washington Legal Foundation, a conservative public interest lawfirm, says Arizona is not trying to supersede federal law.

Richard Samp: In particular, Arizona has promised never to make determinations on its own as to who is an illegal alien and who is not. Rather it plans to seek advice in every single case from the federal government before they continue to detain anybody.

Now the key word there is ‘continue.’ Feds say that any detention by state or local law enforcement would supersede a federal law.

Brancaccio: This is being watched closely by other states beyond Arizona, right?

Dimsdale: That’s right, there are five other states have their own immigration laws. The court’s ruling in this case — which is expected in June — will determine whether those states will be allowed to enforce them.

Brancaccio: Marketplace’s John Dimsdale in Washington, thank  you very much.

Dimsdale: You’re welcome.

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