Arizona County Rejected by Top Court on Immigrant Bail Law

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A divided U.S. Supreme Court refused to revive an Arizona law that denied bail to undocumented immigrants who were charged with any of hundreds of felony offenses.

The justices left intact a federal appeals court decision that said the law, approved by Arizona’s voters in 2006, was so sweeping that it violated the Constitution.

The appeals court faulted the measure because it applied to offenses as minor as altering a lottery ticket and didn’t give inmates a chance to show they weren’t a flight risk.

Three justices -- Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito -- voted to hear the case, falling one vote short of the required number.

“The court’s refusal to hear the case shows insufficient respect to the state of Arizona, its voters and its constitution,” Thomas wrote for himself and Scalia. “And it suggests to the lower courts that they have free rein to strike down state laws on the basis of dubious constitutional analysis.”

The law was being defended by Maricopa County and its sheriff, Joseph Arpaio, whose aggressive approach toward illegal immigration has made him a flashpoint for the debate.

The county’s appeal pointed to a 1987 Supreme Court decision upholding a federal law that allows the pretrial detention of people charged with serious felonies.

The case is County of Maricopa v. Lopez-Valenzuela, 14-825.

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