WASHINGTON —The Supreme Court made it clear Monday that enforcing immigration laws is reserved for the federal government, not the states.
By an 8-1 vote, the justices rejected a request from Alabama to revive part of a 2011 law designed to drive out undocumented immigrants. That year saw a wave of new laws in Republican-controlled states where lawmakers decried federal inaction. Alabama's was deemed the toughest.
The Obama administration went to court to challenge the state laws, arguing that federal immigration policy trumped state efforts. The administration said it was targeting criminals, gang members and smugglers, not the millions of otherwise law-abiding but undocumented immigrants who live and work in this country.
The administration won a major victory last year when the Supreme Court struck down most of Arizona's immigration enforcement law. In a 6-3 decision, the justices agreed that Washington, not the states, gets to decide how to enforce the immigration laws.
The high court upheld one provision that allows police to question people about their immigration status if they are stopped for some other lawful reason.
That ruling prompted the U.S. appeals court in Atlanta to block much of Alabama's law, including a provision that made it a state crime to hide, harbor or transport undocumented immigrants.
Alabama's attorney general, Luther Strange, had appealed to the high court on that provision in February. The court's action is a setback for several states, including South Carolina, Utah and Georgia, which had adopted similar measures.