Most Latinos responding to the Supreme Court’s decision on Arizona’s immigration law are pleased with the parts of the law which were struck down, but remain very worried about the “papers please” provision upheld by the Justices.
“We are gratified the decision clearly shows the federal government is the singular entity regulating immigration, not the states,” says Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). Vargas, however, expressed worries about the provision which was upheld, which requires law enforcement officers to check on the immigration status of someone who has been detained or arrested, if they think there is reasonable suspicion to do so.
“If it’s at the discretion of a police officer, clearly someone who has brown skin and an accent is more at a disadvantage than a blond person with white skin,” says Vargas.
Irma Rivera, spokesperson for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), agrees. “The impact of this decision will be an upsurge of racial profiling on a massive scale.”
Brandeis School of Law professor and immigration expert Enid Trucios-Haynes also worries the current “papers please” law may lead to more racial profiling. Trucios-Haynes, however, says the Court’s wording on the decision “recognizes there will be challenges in the future.” NALEO’s Vargas agrees, saying “we are months and perhaps years away from an implementation of SB1070, since there are other lawsuits challenging the law on equal protection grounds and other areas,” he explains. In other words, say Trucios-Haynes and Vargas, this Supreme Court decision is not the “final” word on SB1070 and Arizona.
Democratic New Jersey Senator Bob Menéndez praised the striking down of some of the law but expressed worry about a “patchwork” of state laws which are “deeply destructive.” Illinois Congressman Luis Gutiérrez was even more direct, saying on MSNBC “I have a funny feeling that people who look like me” would be the ones asked about their immigration status if they were detained or arrested.”
Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio said on “Fox & Friends” today, “I think Arizona-type laws are not ideal.” Agreeing with Latino Democrats, Rubio said he has “never believed in state immigration policies.”
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, however, had a different take. Saying Obama had failed to provide leadership on immigration reform, Romney said “each state has the duty – and the right – to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law.”
Latino Decisions‘ political scientist Matt Barreto, who has done extensive polling on Latino voters’ views on the Arizona law and immigration, said Romney’s remarks are consistent with his previous views.
“I think he was really boxed in on SB1070,” says Barreto. “Romney had reiterated his support for the law, so his remarks are to be expected,” says Barreto. A recent Latino Decisions poll, however, found 71 percent of Latinos oppose SB1070.
“Romney might have to have a different message on the issue, since continuing this same line of reasoning is not popular with Latino voters,” Barreto adds.
Though Obama had come out against Arizona’s immigration law, Barreto warns the Administration’s policies may also come under scrutiny. “One lingering question is whether Secure Communities, which has been supported by the administration, will be seen in a similar way as SB1070,” he says. Secure Communities requires local police officers to share fingerprints with immigration; the purpose is to identify criminals for deportation.
Ultimately, though, the law has become part of the national conversation, and it is Arizona’s Latino residents who have “lived” through the real-life repercussions of Arizona’s immigration law.
“I personally have papers, but it still does not make it ok for anyone to be asking me for them, when they would not ask a White person for proof,” commented Amy Lucero-Carbajal, a fourth grade teacher in the Isaac School District in Phoenix, on Facebook.
Gustavo Cruz, who lost his job immediately after SB1070 was passed but who has slowly found work, says there is still much fear in his neighborhood, and he has seen many Latinos choose to leave. Cruz and his wife, Patricia Rosas, saw their family separate after their grown daughter left the state with her family.
Cruz and his wife, though, decided to become part of the “Promesa Arizona” group of Latino activists instead.
“I’ll keep living a peaceful life,” the father and grandfather says. “I know my rights, and I leave it ‘en las manos de Dios,’ (in the hands of God),” he says.