* Key provision upheld, three others struck down
* Obama says "pleased" with part of Supreme Court ruling
* Arizona governor hails retention of key element of law
* Racial, ethnic profiling challenges could still go forward
By James Vicini and Jonathan Stempel
WASHINGTON, June 25 The U.S. Supreme Court on
Monday upheld the main provision of Arizona's crackdown on
illegal immigrants but threw out three other parts, handing
partial victories to President Barack Obama in his challenge to
the law and to the measure's conservative supporters.
In an important test of whether federal or state governments
have the power to enforce immigration laws, the top U.S. court
unanimously upheld the statute's most controversial aspect, a
requirement that police officers check the immigration status of
people they stop, even for minor offenses such as jay-walking.
But in a split ruling, the court also struck down other
provisions of the southwestern U.S. state's 2010 law, the first
of its kind in the country, that the Obama administration had
challenged in court. The votes on those provisions were 5-3 or
6-2, with the more conservative justices in dissent.
These three provisions required immigrants to carry
immigration papers at all times, banned illegal immigrants from
soliciting work in public places, and allowed police arrests of
immigrants without warrants if officers believed they committed
crimes that would make them deportable.
Critics have argued that the law could lead to illegal
racial or ethnic profiling of Hispanics in Arizona. Hispanics
are the largest U.S. minority group, representing 16 percent of
the population. Most U.S. illegal immigrants are Hispanics.
In the court's majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy
left open the possibility that constitutional or other
challenges to the law, including claims it will lead to
profiling, can proceed once it takes effect.
"I am pleased that the Supreme Court has struck down key
provisions of Arizona's immigration law," Obama said in a
statement. His administration had argued in court that the
federal government has sole power over immigration, not states.
The court still dealt a setback to Obama by preserving the
key part of the law months before he seeks re-election on Nov. 6
against Republican challenger Mitt Romney, who has taken a tough
stance against illegal immigration. But it was less of a setback
than had been envisioned after oral arguments before the
justices in April.
Conservatives also took heart. Arizona Republican Governor
Jan Brewer, who has championed the measure, called the decision
to preserve the heart of the statute "a victory for the rule of
law" and said her state will implement it fairly and without
resorting to racial profiling.
The immigration dispute was viewed as the second most
important case in the Supreme Court's 2011-12 term, behind only
the historic legal battle over Obama's healthcare overhaul law.
A ruling in that case is expected on Thursday.
CONCERN FROM MEXICO
Arizona borders Mexico, where the foreign ministry issued a
statement assailing the high political costs it said were
attached to such laws and voicing concern for the civil rights
of Mexicans living in or visiting U.S. states with such laws.
Kennedy cited safeguards and limits written into the law.
He said an immigrant is presumed to be in the United States
lawfully if a valid driver's license or similar identification
can be produced. If an immigrant lacks such identification, the
officer then checks with the federal government on the
Kennedy said the federal government has significant power to
regulate immigration, pointing to how federal policy could
affect trade, investment, tourism and diplomatic relations.
"Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the
problems caused by illegal immigration ... but the state may not
pursue policies that undermine federal law," he said.
The majority that struck down three challenged parts of the
Arizona law also included Chief Justice John Roberts, as well as
the more liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer
and Sonia Sotomayor, the nation's first Hispanic justice.
The court's ninth member, liberal Justice Elena Kagan, did
not take part in the immigration ruling - believed to be because
she worked on the case in her prior job as Obama's solicitor
The decision went to the heart of a fierce national debate
between Democrats and Republicans over the 11.5 million illegal
immigrants the U.S. government estimates to be in the country.
OBAMA EXPRESSES CONCERNS
In his reaction to the ruling, Obama alluded to fears about
racial profiling of Hispanics in Arizona.
"No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion
just because of what they look like," Obama added. "Going
forward, we must ensure that Arizona law enforcement officials
do not enforce this law in a manner that undermines the civil
rights of Americans, as the court's decision recognizes."
In upholding the police checks, Kennedy said their mandatory
nature did not interfere with the federal immigration scheme,
and found unpersuasive the Obama administration argument that
federal law preempted this part of the law at this stage.
He said it was improper to block that provision before state
courts had an opportunity to review it, and without some showing
that its enforcement conflicted with federal immigration law.
Romney had opposed the federal challenge to the Arizona law.
"Today's decision underscores the need for a president who will
lead on this critical issue and work in a bipartisan fashion to
pursue a national immigration strategy," he said in a statement.
SCALIA ANGRILY DISSENTS
Justice Antonin Scalia read an angry dissent from the bench,
saying he would have upheld the entire Arizona law.
It "boggles the mind" that the president might decline to
enforce federal immigration law, Scalia said, referring to
Obama's June 15 executive order stopping deportation for certain
young people in the United States illegally.
Obama has vowed to push for comprehensive immigration
legislation if re-elected. Opinion polls show Hispanic voters
overwhelmingly support Obama.
Arizona became the first of half a dozen U.S. states to
adopt laws to drive illegal immigrants out. About 360,000 of the
country's illegal immigrants, or 3 percent, reside in Arizona.
Most of the state's nearly 2 million Hispanics are in the
The majority opinion's sweeping rhetoric could cloud state
efforts to try to curb illegal immigration.
After the ruling, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
rescinded the authority a joint state-federal task force had
given Arizona to enforce federal immigration laws, senior
administration officials said.
This means that even if Arizona police hold illegal
immigrants, they cannot deport them unless they also broke a
state law, said Evelyn Cruz, an immigration law professor at
Arizona State University.
The Arizona governor's office issued a statement critical of
the Homeland Security action, saying that 68 law enforcement
entities in 24 states had such agreements but only Arizona's was
eliminated on Monday.
Roberts said from the bench that the court's last day of the
term will be Thursday, and that all remaining opinions are
expected to be issued that day.
Last year, the court upheld a different Arizona law that
penalizes businesses for hiring illegal immigrants.
The Supreme Court case is Arizona v. United States, No.