The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments Wednesday on a controversial immigration law in Arizona that supporters say is necessary, but opponents say unfairly targets all immigrants.
The sweeping legislation was signed into law by Republican Governor Jan Brewer in 2010. Supporters say tough local action is urgently needed in the border state, charging that the federal government has not done enough to stem the flow of illegal immigrants.
A federal court blocked parts of the law, including a measure that allows police to check the immigration status of a person during stops or arrests on other matters.
The Obama administration says immigration enforcement is the job of the federal government and needs to be addressed at that level. The hotly debated, divisive issue is expected to receive significant attention ahead of the November presidential election.
The Supreme Court is expected to make its decision before the end of June.
Democratic Senator Charles Schumer said if the high court upholds the Arizona statute, he will introduce legislation to reiterate that Congress does not intend for states to enact their own immigration enforcement laws.
Congressional Republicans are expected to introduce their own immigration reform plans.
Schumer said Republicans have ignored efforts to work with Democrats on the issue. He spoke at a Senate hearing Tuesday, on the eve of the Supreme Court arguments.
"I'm sure it didn't escape notice that none of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle came to this hearing," said Schumer. "That's not surprising. They're absent from this hearing just as they have been absent from every attempt we've made to negotiate a comprehensive solution to our immigration problem. We need people to sit down, people on both sides of the aisle in a bipartisan way and solve this problem, and we have been unable to find negotiating partners."
The state lawmaker behind the Arizona legislation, Russell Pearce, said "the invasion of illegal aliens" poses one of the "greatest threats to our nation in terms of political, economic and national security."
"We have a national crisis, and yet we continue to ignore it," Pearce noted. "There are some that run for office and talk about 'build the darn fence' but never hear it again once they are elected. I think America is a little tired of the drive-by statements by politicians instead of dealing with the issue at hand. Enforce our laws. Secure our border."
Pearce, who was removed from office last year in a recall election, said those who have illegally entered the country have included convicted felons, members of drug cartels and gangs, and human traffickers. He said immigration has cost the state billions of dollars in education, health care and detention costs. He said a majority of other states expressed support for the legislation.