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Arizona Immigration Law's Supreme Court Hearing Leaves Democrats Less Confident

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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) await the arrival of President Barack Obama on Jan. 12, 2011.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) await the arrival of President Barack Obama on Jan. 12, 2011.

WASHINGTON -- Two top Democratic opponents of Arizona immigration law SB 1070 said Wednesday they were less confident that contested provisions of the law would remain blocked after a Supreme Court oral argument.

"I kind of felt better going in than I did coming out of the court," Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) told HuffPost after listening to the oral argument. "You couldn't get a good read."

Grijalva said Section 2 of SB 1070, which requires police to ask for papers during stops if they suspect someone to be in the country illegally, seemed the most likely to be unblocked by the Supreme Court, based on the intense questioning by the justices. A federal court blocked that section of the immigration law, as well as three others, in a decision upheld by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in April 2011. The law was signed in 2010 by Gov. Jan Brewer (R), but those provisions have not gone into effect.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), also a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told HuffPost he also felt less encouraged because Republican-appointed members of the court seemed to take a partisan stance on the issue.

"If you were there to see the sarcasm dripping from [Justice Antonin] Scalia's mouth as he spoke -- I thought they were on the Republican bench on the Judiciary Committee," he said, referring to the House committee with immigration hardliners Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Steve King (R-Iowa) and Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.).

The other side was more confident. Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, an author of SB 1070 and an informal adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said he felt "very confident" that the arrest provisions in Section 2 would be unblocked.

Kobach said the court spent the least time discussing Section 5 of the law, which criminalizes the act of seeking employment by undocumented immigrants. He said the justices' view on that component was the most unclear, although he still believed they would unblock the provision and allow it to go into effect.

Former Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce (R), who co-wrote and introduced the law, echoed that statement.

"The only one that even left any doubt was the employer [provision]," he told HuffPost. "I think we'll win, the others were just clearer."

Even if the justices unblock the contested sections of SB 1070, Gutierrez said there may be political means to stop it. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced on Tuesday he will introduce a bill that would ban states from creating their own immigration enforcement legislation, should the court rule in favor of Arizona.

"You can't win in this Supreme Court. You better start learning that you better win in the court of public opinion and on election day," Gutierrez said. "That's what these arguments taught me today."

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