By NBC News and msnbc.com staff
Updated 11:54 a.m. ET: The Supreme Court appears ready to uphold part of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, which would allow some of the measures currently blocked by lower courts to be enforced.
Based on comments during Wednesday’s oral arguments on the case, even some of the court’s liberal justices seemed to find no strong objection to the most controversial part of the law, which requires local police to check on the immigration status of anyone they detain or arrest.
The state appeared to have a tougher time defending two other provisions of the law that are now blocked: making it a state crime to have no federal immigration papers and making it a state crime for an illegal immigrant to look for work. Neither is currently a federal crime.
The justices strongly suggested Wednesday they are not buying the Obama administration’s argument that the state exceeded its authority when it made the records check part of SB 1070, the state law aimed at driving illegal immigrants out of Arizona. The Obama administration argues that immigration policy is rightfully set by the federal government, not states.
But Arizona says immigration is not exclusively a federal matter and the state has the right to act because federal authorities have not done their job.
Key parts of the law have been put on hold by lower courts pending action by the Supreme Court.
The legislation, which was signed into law by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in April 2010, has inspired similar laws in other states.
The case has become 2012 campaign fodder for the Obama administration and Republicans.
Arizona’s controversial immigration law heads to the U.S. Supreme Court tomorrow. NBC’s Pete Williams offers a preview. Tamar Jacoby, ImmigrationWorks USA, and Alan Wilson, South Carolina Attorney General, weigh in.
But it is an issue that also has the potential to split the Republicans.
The most prominent Latino Republican, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — a potential running mate for Mitt Romney — said last week that he did not “believe that laws like Arizona’s should be a model for the country,” although he added he understood why Arizona had passed the law.
But, crucially, he added, “I would much rather the federal government deal with the illegal immigration issue and modernize our legal immigration system … .”
Those remarks put him at odds with Romney, who in February called the Arizona’s immigration law “a model.” Romney also has said he hoped the law “will be implemented with care and caution not to single out individuals based upon their ethnicity.”
NBC’s Pete Williams contributed to this report.