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ACLU says today’s Supreme Court ruling on Arizona immigration law doesn’t impact Virginia law

Today the U.S. Supreme Court struck down much of Arizona’s controversial immigration law. (Read the court opinion here.)

But the ruling doesn’t change Virginia’s immigration laws, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Claire Gastañaga, director of the ACLU of Virginia, said the court’s decision will have “no direct impact on Virginia law” because Virginia isn’t doing the things Arizona was trying to do with its law.

Virginia does require local law enforcement to check a person’s citizenship status, but only when the person is arrested for an offense.

The court did not overturn the “show me your papers” portion of Arizona’s law, which allows police to ask about a person’s citizenship status when they’ve stopped, detained or arrested that person.

According to Gastañaga, the court didn’t overturn that part of the Arizona law in part because it doesn’t know how it will be implemented.

“They didn’t say it was ok but they didn’t throw it out on its face,” Gastañaga said.

That means that provision could be up for other court rulings in the future, including rulings on questions of civil rights that were not addressed in this case.

Gastañaga said that means Virginia legislators should take the court’s ruling as a message that their ability to make state laws about immigration is limited.

“It clarifies to some extent what the Virginia General Assembly can and cannot do to regulate immigration in the future,” Gastañaga said in an ACLU press release.

“We urge the legislature not to interpret the court’s decision on the “show me your papers” provision as a license to pass even more restrictive laws than our current statewide check on arrest statute.

This decision leaves open the possibility that the Arizona law could still be preempted by federal law if applied in a manner that disrupts federal immigration policy. Moreover, civil rights cases challenging racial profiling and making other constitutional claims will continue and additional cases will be brought wherever broader “show me your papers” provisions are enacted.”

Virginia lawmakers initiated a state crime commission study in 2007 to figure out what laws the state could pass regarding illegal immigration that wouldn’t conflict with federal law.

They found federal law preempted their efforts to push for state restrictions in many areas. But the study did lead to the state law requiring law enforcement to check the immigration status of arrestees.