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Supreme Court decision on Arizona immigration amendment

California residents mat be interested in learning that the Supreme Court on June 1 refused to reconsider an appellate court decision regarding an Arizona constitutional amendment that was passed in 2006. That amendment denied bail to undocumented immigrants who committed felonies in the state. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit had ruled the amendment unconstitutional because it did not make case-by-case determinations.

An earlier Supreme Court ruling had held that immigrants who were awaiting deportation could be a flight risk and thus could be kept in custody prior to their trials. However, in reversing a lower court's decision on the Arizona amendment, the appellate court cited a 1984 law allowing such detention only on a case-by-case basis. Justice Clarence Thomas, who was one of three justices willing to hear the case, wrote that refusing to hear the case could result in lower courts rejecting future laws on shaky constitutional grounds.

Arizona was one of only three states to restrict a defendant's right to bail based on immigration status. Missouri and Alabama were the other two, and several other states deny bail to those who may face a life sentence if convicted. There are currently 22 states that restrict bail to those charged with a capital offense.

Anyone who is in the country illegally may be deported if convicted of a crime. However, an immigration attorney may be able to convince a judge to allow an individual to stay in the country despite his or her legal issues. It may be possible to argue that the offense was minor or that the individual may not have understood that what he or she did was illegal when the act was committed.

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  • American Immigration Lawyers Association
  • State Bar of California | California Board of Legal Specialization
  • Avvo
  • Orange County Bar Association
  • Irvine Chamber