In a 5-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected three out of the four tenets of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, SB 1070.
In the majority decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “The national government has significant power to regulate immigration…the state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.” This was the central argument made by the Obama administration when it challenged Arizona.
The ruling sends a signal to the right wing and lawmakers in Arizona, Alabama and elsewhere that state laws, recently put on the books for racist and political reasons across this country, are unconstitutional – or at least for the most part.
The court let stand – for the time being – the infamous “show us your papers” part of SB 1070. It allows police to demand proof of immigration status when stopping people for traffic or other minor violations.
This leaves a provision in place that will certainly lead to racial profiling and misery for immigrants and citizens. Activists have vowed to monitor the implementation of this provision.
The American Civil Liberties Union, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Service Employees International Union and others have filed another suit against the Arizona immigration law, which focuses on racial profiling. (The federal suit explicitly excluded that issue from its arguments.) The court, while leaving the police-stop part intact, left the possibility that this may be reviewed at some future time. This is positive for the ACLU-MALDEF-SEIU suit.
In wake of the high court’s decision, the Obama administration has suspended its agreements with Arizona under the 287 (g) clause of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. This law is the twin of the currently more famous Secure Communities Act, the difference being that the 287 (g) program is applied more to people already in jail while Secure Communities more to those out in the community. Nothing was said about Secure Communities, so far. However, many activists see the reform or end of Secure Communities as being part of the next steps in the democratic rights fight.
All should remember that the key factor in the court’s ruling – and any of the positive moves by the Obama administration on immigration — is the struggle by immigrants and their allies in the labor, civil rights and other movements. That united movement is needed now more than ever in the elections, the legislative process and the streets. Only with that movement will Congress be compelled to pass fair and humane immigration reform, including the DREAM Act.
In the end, the American people do believe that no human being is “illegal” and that our country is stronger because of the contributions of immigrants.
Photo: Campus Progress // CC 2.0