What the Supreme Court's immigration ruling means for Arizonans

Local police can still demand anyone for identification, but non-criminal illegal immigrants face less risk of getting detained.
Local police can still demand anyone for identification, but non-criminal illegal immigrants face less risk of getting detained.
CBS News

(CBS News) PHOENIX - Following the Supreme Court's ruling on Arizona's controversial immigration law, Arizona police can still ask residents about their immigration status when they are pulled over or arrested. But they have to turn it over to federal authorities from there. Arizonans are still finding out what that means for them.

Mario Chihuahua was pulled over last December by an Arizona sheriff's deputy for making an illegal turn.

"He asked me, 'Where you was born?'" Chihuahua recalled. "Well, you know, you don't have the right to ask me that question."

When the deputy asked him for identification, he didn't have any because he's an illegal immigrant. The 36-year-old came from Mexico 12 years ago. Chihuaha was jailed for 3 days while his case was referred to federal immigration authorities. Now his family, including 13-year-old Abril, faces deportation.

"For me, it would be like starting all over again because all of my studies have been here," Abril said. "I've been here since kindergarten. I've studied here. I really want to go to Harvard."

Monday's Supreme Court ruling threw out parts of Arizona's immigration law, one of the toughest in the country and challenged by the Obama administration.

Police can still ask people like Chihuahua for identification and have federal officials check their immigration status, but the Department of Homeland Security can only detain illegal immigrants with criminal convictions, repeated violators, or people who have recently crossed the border. It is likely federal authorities will not bother with somebody like Chihuahua.

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Still, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer -- a Republican who pushed for the original law -- called the court's ruling a victory.

"Today the State of Arizona and Senate Bill 1070 was vindicated and the heart of the bill was upheld," Brewer said.

Polls have shown a majority of Arizonans support the law. State Sen. Steve Pierce, who voted for it, said a fear of arrest has forced thousands of illegal immigrants to leave the state.

"It made lots of room in schools, crime is down, the lines at the emergencies in the hospital are down and it's changed things drastically," Pierce said.

Late Monday afternoon Gov. Brewer sent out a scathing statement from the state capital in Phoenix. She took issue with the federal government saying that they don't plan to arrest most non-criminal illegal immigrants, calling it a new low for the Obama administration.

The president says he's pleased that the justices threw out most of the Arizona law, but he's concerned about the part they kept, in which police are still allowed to ask suspected immigrants for their papers.

In a statement, President Obama said no American should ever live around a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like.

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    Ben Tracy is a CBS News senior national and environmental correspondent based in Washington, D.C.