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Supreme Court issues split decision on Arizona immigration law

June 25, 2012|By David Savage | This post has been updated, as indicated below.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court struck down most of Arizona’s strict law targeting illegal immigrants, but said Arizona’s police can stop, question and briefly detain immigrants if they have reason to believe they are in the country illegally.

The justices said the federal government has the ultimate authority to decide who will be held on immigration charges and deported.  

While police can stop people they suspect are illegal immigrants, the justices said the police have limited authority. They must check with federal immigration agents before deciding to hold the suspects.

The justices also blocked parts of Arizona’s SB 1070 that would have made it a state crime for illegal immigrants to carry documents or to seek work.

The court’s decision appears to give states such as Arizona a quite limited role in enforcing the laws against illegal immigrants.

Their police can notify federal agents if they have a suspect in custody, but they cannot keep them in a county jail on state charges.

[Updated 7:51 a.m. PST June 25: This post has been updated to reflect new details from the Supreme Court's ruling.]

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