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California Joins Arizona Immigration Battle

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Sacramento, CA — California has joined 10 other states in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Arizona’s immigration law, saying it would drive illegal immigrants into other states.

The Arizona law, passed two years ago makes it a crime to be in the country illegally and to seek work. The law has been largely blocked by court order because of court challenges.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has filed an amicus brief stating, “Although Arizona claims that the law merely assists the federal government in the enforcement of federal law, the Arizona law in fact implements a distinct state policy on removal that supplants federally mandated enforcement priorities and disregards the federal requirement that state assistance in this area proceed under federal oversight.”

Attorney General Harris joined 10 other attorneys general from New York, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.

The brief argues that it is in states’ interest to have a cohesive federal immigration policy. It further states that decisions about who to remove from the United States and when to remove them are exclusively the prerogative of the federal government. States may not adopt a competing policy, as Arizona has done.

Supreme Court has scheduled an April 25 hearing and a ruling is expected in June.

According to Attorney General Harris, California has the largest undocumented immigrant population of any state, 2.5 million (6.8 percent), according to a 2011 report from the Pew Hispanic Center. California also has the largest percentage (9.7 percent) of undocumented immigrants in its labor force at 1.85 million.

California law has long provided basic protections for all California residents who comply with state law, while respecting the right of the federal government to enforce federal deportation policies. For example, California law expressly guarantees the same protection, rights and remedies, except those prohibited by federal law, to all who have applied for employment or who have been employed. California also allows students who are not legal residents to pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities.

These laws focus on the health and welfare of California’s undocumented immigrants, but keep the federal government in charge of who can stay in the country.

A copy of the brief is attached to the online version of this release at

  • Kamala Harris