With the U.S. Supreme Court taking up the Obama administration's challenge to Arizona's anti-immigration law, other states with similar statutes have asked federal courts to place on hold Department of Justice lawsuits.
Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina on Thursday asked federal courts to stay Justice Department lawsuits seeking to overturn Arizona-style laws aimed at driving undocumented immigrants out.
Republican attorneys general in those states say the outcome of Arizona's case at the high court will affect their efforts to beat back Justice Department challenges.
Georgia and Alabama have each filed a motion to stay proceedings with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals based in Atlanta.
South Carolina filed motions in a lower federal court for a stay of litigation and an order allowing its immigration law, which state Attorney General Alan Wilson said is nearly identical to Arizona's SB1070, to be enforced beginning in 2012.
To say that this case before the Supreme Court is important to the instant suit would be an understatement, Wilson said in a statement Thursday. A ruling by the Supreme Court in Arizona is likely to resolve most or all of the issues in the instant case.
The court filings come three days after the Supreme Court decided Tuesday to grant Arizona's petition seeking to overturn a preliminary injunction blocking the more onerous provisions in SB1070. A federal judge in Arizona put the injunction in place and a three-judge panel for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld the lower court ruling.
The provisions in SB1070 currently under an injunction would require law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of anyone detained or arrested; authorize warrantless arrests of any undocumented resident who had committed a public offense; require immigrants to carry documents; and making it a state crime for illegal immigrants to look or accept work.
A similar injunction from a federal district court was placed on Alabama's immigration law, which is touted and denounced as the toughest in the nation.
That preliminary injunction, upheld by the Eleventh Circuit appeals court, blocked provisions that would have required immigrants to carry documentation and schools to collect immigration status of new students and their parents.
Provisions that allow law enforcement to verify immigration status of anyone detained or arrested was allowed to be enacted.
I am confident that the Supreme Court will rule in Arizona's favor, said Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. By staying the current proceedings, we ensure that the Eleventh Circuit has the benefit of this ruling before it hears oral arguments in Alabama's case, and we give the court even more reasons to uphold Alabama's similar law.
Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said the ability to use the Supreme Court's ruling in defending the state law will bolster its case.
The Obama administration's chief Supreme Court lawyer, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, has said each state's immigration law may be similar but are unique nonetheless. Verrilli, in opposing Supreme Court review of Arizona's law, has said there is no reason to think that reviewing this preliminary injunction would resolve the lawsuits against other states.
The Supreme Court could hear arguments from Arizona and the Obama administration in April, according to CNN. There is a possibility of a 4-4 split, as Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case, presumably because she was Obama's solicitor general before joining the high court.
In the event of a split decision, the Ninth Circuit's ruling upholding the preliminary injunction will stand.