Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Files Amicus Brief in Supreme Court against Arizona Immigration Law

Tuesday, March 27, 2012
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court arguing against Arizona’s illegal immigration legislation.

The brief argues that decisions about who to remove from the United States and when to remove them are exclusively the prerogative of the federal government. States may not adopt a competing policy, as Arizona has done.

“Although Arizona claims that the law merely assists the federal government in the enforcement of federal law, the Arizona law in fact implements a distinct state policy on removal that supplants federally mandated enforcement priorities and disregards the federal requirement that state assistance in this area proceed under federal oversight,” the amicus brief states.

Attorney General Harris, joined by 10 other attorneys general, argued in a brief filed yesterday in the U.S. Supreme Court that it is in states’ interest to have a cohesive federal immigration policy. Oral arguments will be on April 25.

California has the largest undocumented immigrant population of any state, 2.5 million (6.8 percent), according to a 2011 report from the Pew Hispanic Center. California also has the largest percentage (9.7 percent) of undocumented immigrants in its labor force at 1.85 million.

California law has long provided basic protections for all California residents who comply with state law, while respecting the right of the federal government to enforce federal deportation policies. For example, California law expressly guarantees the same protection, rights and remedies, except those prohibited by federal law, to all who have applied for employment or who have been employed. California also allows students who are not legal residents to pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities.

These laws focus on the health and welfare of California’s undocumented immigrants, but keep the federal government in charge of who can stay in the country.

California was joined in this amicus brief by New York, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.

A copy of the brief is attached to the online version of this release at

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PDF icon Amicus Brief240.42 KB