The Supreme Court has upheld the part of Arizona’s controversial immigration law which allows the state’s police officers to check a person’s immigration status once that person has been detained or arrested, if there is reasonable suspicion that person is undocumented. This has commonly been referred to as the “show me your papers please” law.
The Supreme Court, however, did strike down three other key provisions of the law. Arizona cannot make undocumented immigrants carry federal registration cards. The justices also struck down the part of the law that makes it a crime for undocumented immigrants to work, apply for work or solicit work. The Supreme Court also struck down the provision which allows local police to arrest undocumented immigrants without warrants.
“Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the state may not pursue policies that undermined federal law,” said the Justices, who ruled 5-3 in Arizona v. United States.
Groups opposed and in favor of the law immediately reacted to the news.
“Today’s ruling marks a dark day for justice in the history of the United States of America,” said Angélica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), who vigorously opposes the “papers please” provision.
“In one sweep, the Supreme Court has sided with Arizona and allowed racial profiling as an acceptable law enforcement tool,” added Salas.
Arizona’s governor, Jan Brewer, praised the upholding of the “papers please”provision.
“Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is a victory for the rule of law,” said Governor Brewer. “It is also a victory for the 10th Amendment and all Americans who believe in the inherent right and responsibility of states to defend their citizens.”
President Barack Obama issued a statement saying he was pleased the Supreme Court had struck down key provisions of the law. “I agree with the Court that individuals cannot be detained solely to verify their immigration status,” said Obama. He expressed concern, however, on what he called the “practical impact” of checking on someone’s immigration status once they have been detained. “No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like,” said Obama.
Brandeis School of Law professor Enid Trucios-Haynes, a nationally recognized scholar on immigration law, agrees.
“Upholding Section 2B creates an environment in which racial profiling of Latinos and other suspected unauthorized persons will flourish in the U.S. and will impact both legal and unauthorized persons,” says Trucios-Haynes.
Trucios-Haynes explains, however, that the Justice left open the possibility of challenging the law in the future. “It appears the court really said we need to see how states interpret this and how it is enforced,” she says, adding “Are they stopping Latinos because of appearance?”
For many of the state’s Latinos, however, the law has already altered many of their lives – in very tangible ways.
“The law has separated my family,” says a tearful Patricia Rosas, who went from a pretty traditional mother and grandmother to a “Promesa Arizona” activist and volunteer. “My five-year-old grandson, who used to love talking to police officers, got so terrified every time he saw one, thinking the police were going to take his father away,” recalls Rosas. “He cried every time his father went to work, so my daughter and her husband just moved to another state. I’ve only seen them once since then,” she says, her voice breaking.
Rosas’ husband and sons lost their jobs after the law was passed, and she says they are slowly regaining an economic foothold. “It has been very bad for our neighborhood; there are businesses closed and empty apartments for rent,” she adds.
Results from a Latino Decision/America’s Voice poll released today finds 71 percent of Hispanic registered voters do not agree with the Supreme Court upholding Arizona’s immigration law, and 60 percent think it would create an anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic environment in the country.
“You’re taking local enforcement officials today and making them immigration agents,” said Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez on MSNBC this morning.
Gutierrez added he had a “funny feeling that people who look like me” would be the ones to be stopped and asked for papers.