Supreme Court Takes Immigration Case from Kansas

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(Español) I their upcoming session, the Supreme Court will hear a case concerning state charges against undocumented immigrants. The issue stems from a decision from the Kansas Supreme Court overturning a lower court decision to prosecute three undocumented immigrants for using stolen Social Security numbers. The state went through and prosecuted the men for using the stolen numbers to acquire jobs. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that because of the federal immigration law, the state cannot prosecute undocumented immigrants on criminal charges when the information which serves as the basis of the claim came from federal immigration forms. Simply, put, a state cannot bring criminal charges against undocumented immigrants if the authorities obtained the information from federal immigration forms.

The court will be arguing how far federal immigration law goes towards keeping states from also trying to enforce immigration law. Should the Supreme Court overturn the decision from the Kansas Supreme Court, “overturns the Kansas court’s decision, all states could prosecute non-citizens for identity theft more easily,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor at Cornell Law School said. The law at the center of the suit brought before the Supreme Court is the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which, at its heart, makes it against the law to hire immigrants who do not have employment authorization and provided funds to establish an eligibility database to check the employment eligibility of immigrants. When the three immigrants filled out the required forms, it came to light they were using stolen Social Security numbers. The question then arose as to the state’s ability to prosecute the crime as the information came from a federal immigration form.

The Supreme Court recently struck down a similar issue from Arizona in 2012. Given the turnover in the court in the seven years since, and its distinctive conservative turn, immigration advocates are keeping a close eye on the arguments and decision of this case.