WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court upheld a key part of Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigrants on Monday, rejecting the Obama administration's stance that only the U.S. government should enforce immigration laws in the United States.
The nation's highest court, in an opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy, upheld the state law's most controversial aspect, requiring police officers to check the immigration status of people they stop.
But in a split decision, the justices also ruled that the three other challenged provisions went too far in intruding on federal law, including one provision that makes it a crime for illegal immigrants to work and another that requires them to carry their documents.
Arizona, on the southwest border with Mexico, two years ago became the first of a handful of U.S. states to pass laws aimed at driving illegal immigrants out, including requiring police to check the immigration status of anyone detained and suspected of being in the country illegally.
The battle over the law goes to the heart of a fierce national debate between Democrats and Republicans over what to do with the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.
Critics have said the Arizona law could lead to ethnic and racial profiling of the fast-growing Hispanic population in the United States. Hispanics are the largest U.S. minority group.
Other parts of the Arizona law require immigrants to carry their papers at all times; ban illegal immigrants from soliciting work in public places; and allow police to arrest immigrants without a warrant if an officer believes they have committed a crime that would make them deportable.
The Supreme Court in April heard arguments over the Arizona law's fate.
(Reporting by James Vicini; Editing by Will Dunham)