WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court made it clear Monday that enforcing immigration laws is reserved for the federal government, not the states.
By an 8-1 vote, the justices rejected a request from Alabama to revive part of a 2011 law designed to drive out immigrants who are in the country illegally. That year saw a wave of new laws in Republican-controlled states where lawmakers decried federal inaction. Alabama’s was deemed the toughest.
State officials said if federal authorities were not going to arrest people in the U.S. illegally, their police would take on the task.
The administration won a major victory last year when the Supreme Court struck down most of Arizona’s immigration enforcement law. In a 6-3 decision, the justices rejected the idea that states could make immigration violations a crime under state law.
That ruling prompted the U.S. appeals court in Atlanta to block much of Alabama’s law, including a provision that made it a state crime to hide, harbor or transport immigrants here illegally.
Alabama’s attorney general appealed to the high court in February, urging justices to revive this provision.
After considering the appeal in Alabama vs. United States for several weeks, the justices dismissed it on Monday. Justice Antonin Scalia dissented but did not write an opinion.
The court’s action is a setback for several states, including South Carolina, Utah and Georgia, which had adopted similar measures.