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States ask courts to halt appeals in immigration law cases

Story highlights

  • The Supreme Court says it will decide whether Arizona can enforce its law
  • Attorneys general say the Arizona case will impact their appeals
  • South Carolina's attorney general says his state's law is "nearly identical" to Arizona's
  • The states are part of a nationwide skirmish over who controls immigration enforcement

Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina asked judges Thursday to halt proceedings in cases challenging the states' immigration laws.

The motions filed by the states' attorneys general come three days after the U.S. Supreme Court said it would consider a challenge to Arizona's controversial immigration law.

Georgia and Alabama filed motions in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. South Carolina filed a motion in federal district court. Officials from all three states argue that the Supreme Court's ruling in the Arizona case will impact cases surrounding their states' immigration laws.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said in a statement that his state's law is "nearly identical" to the Arizona measure.

"The Arizona case will substantially affect many of the legal questions that are critical to Alabama's appeals pending in the 11th Circuit," Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said in a statement. "Alabama has supported Arizona in its legal effort from the beginning, and Alabama will continue to vigorously support Arizona as the case moves to the Supreme Court."

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said in a statement that he hoped the Supreme Court will affirm his state's view of immigration enforcement.

    "It is clear that the Supreme Court's ruling in Arizona's case will be relevant to the 11th Circuit's consideration of our appeal," he said.

    The legal battles in Georgia, Alabama, Arizona and South Carolina are part of a nationwide skirmish between state federal officials over who controls immigration enforcement.

    Arizona's law aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration catapulted the issue onto the national stage last year, drawing a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice, which argues the law is unconstitutional. Since then, several other states have passed similar measures.

    In a brief order Monday, Supreme Court justices said they had agreed to decide whether Arizona can enforce its law.

    Federal courts had blocked key parts of the state's Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, known as SB 1070. Arizona had argued illegal immigration was creating financial hardships and safety concerns for its residents and that the federal government has long failed to control the problem.

    The administration has countered immigration issues are under its exclusive authority and that state "interference" would only make matters worse.

    Arguments could be held in April with a final ruling by June. Justice Elena Kagan will not hear the case, since she had been involved in the administration's initial legal opposition to the law as solicitor general, before taking the bench last year.

    The possibility of a 4-4 split would prevent the four provisions of the law from going into effect, but not settle the larger constitutional questions.