Skip to content


News Posted on April 25, 2012

Dean Johnson, Professor Chin Comment for Media on Supreme Court Immigration Law Hearings

Dean Kevin R. Johnson and Professor Gabriel "Jack" Chin commented on the U.S. Supreme Court hearings on Arizona's controversial immigration law SB 1070 for media including USA Today, the Arizona Republic, and National Public Radio.

"This could be one of the most significant immigration decisions of the last 20 or 30 years," Dean Johnson commented for USA Today. "It raises all kinds of issues that make for great cases: Immigration is an issue of great public importance, it raises issues of state versus federal power, and it comes at a time when there is a lot of attention being focused on what's going on the border." Professor Chin also commented for the USA Today article, suggesting that the Justices are likely to be eager to address the issues raised by SB 1070.

Commenting for the Arizona Republic, Dean Johnson spoke on the possibility that, because Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself, the remaining eight Justices could produce a 4-4 tie. This could occur if four of the Republican appointees vote to uphold the law, and the three Democratic appointees are joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy in opposing it. "In my mind, the swing vote most likely to make this a tie is Justice Kennedy," Dean Johnson said. "He's likely to probe very deeply about how the law will be applied, how it conflicts with federal law or doesn't conflict with federal law. There is a chance he may ask some about the reasons Arizona passed this law and its intent." Professor Chin said that Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and John Roberts may also be sympathetic to the arguments against SB 1070.  "As a general matter in national-security and foreign-policy cases, they tend to support the power of the United States."

"This is not a question of states' rights versus individual rights,'' said Professor Chin, speaking to the Yuma Sun. "This is a conflict between states' rights and traditional federal authority. There, it's not clear the traditional conservatives are interested in undermining federal authority in foreign policy and national security.''

Professor Chin expanded on the history of states' authority in immigration enforcement in an interview on National Public Radio's Tell Me More program.  Similar issues "came up in the 1870s in California, when California wanted to drive out the Chinese," said Chin. "And the basic law was established by the U.S. Supreme Court and by Congress, then. And the idea is that these laws should be established and carried out by Congress. Here's what the Supreme Court said in 1876. ‘The responsibility for the character of those regulations and for the manner of their execution belongs solely to the national government. If it be otherwise, a single state can, at her pleasure, embroil us in disastrous quarrels with other nations.'"

Professor Chin also co-authored an essay with Marc L. Miller of the University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law on the SB 1070 hearings that has been published on the American Constitution Society ACSblog.  Dean Johnson has written frequently on SB 1070 and related issues on the ImmigrationProf blog.

Kevin R. Johnson is Dean and Mabie-Apallas Professor of Public Interest Law and Chicana/o studies at UC Davis School of Law. He is an internationally recognized scholar in the fields of immigration law and policy, refugee law, and civil rights.

Gabriel "Jack" Chin, who joined the King Hall faculty in 2011, is a prolific and much-cited criminal and immigration law scholar whose work has addressed many of the most pressing social issues of our time.

USA Today article

Arizona Republic article

Yuma Sun

National Public Radio Tell Me More (with audio)


ImmigrationProf blog