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Arizona in the dock

"Arizona in the dock" Continued...

Verrilli said the point is that immigration is a national issue, and Congress explicitly vested the secretary of state and the attorney general with authority to enforce immigration laws. He said immigration policy needs to be unified across the country, in part because of immigration policy's role in foreign relations-an argument that carried the day in the 9th Circuit.

Maybe that argument worked with the 9th Circuit, but after Verrilli said Arizona's law could impede good relationships with other countries, Kennedy responded, "So you're saying the government has a legitimate interest in not enforcing its laws?"

Even the liberal justices seemed underwhelmed with the government's arguments. Justice Sonia Sotomayor at one point commented on Verrilli's argument on the federal government's exclusive right to make immigration policy: "It's not selling very well … it's not that [the law is] forcing you to change your enforcement priorities. You don't have to take the person into custody. So what's left of your argument?"

And in questioning Clement, the liberal justices seemed mainly concerned that the state's law could result in extended detention for immigrants while their status was verified-they hardly broached the question of whether Arizona was interfering with federal authority.

But after Verrilli faced widespread criticism over his performance in the healthcare case, Roberts made a point to say at the end of the arguments, "Well argued on both sides."

And Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, the Republican who signed the law, came out of the court afterward beaming. "I'm very encouraged," she said.

Listen to a report on Arizona's immigration case before the Supreme Court on WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It.

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emzleb.

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