The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a key component of Arizona’s controversial immigration law Monday, allowing local police to request documentation from people they suspect to be in the country illegally. It struck down “two provisions that made it a crime for an illegal immigrant to seek work or fail to register with the federal government,” NPR reported. It also ruled against “a portion of the law that allowed state and local law enforcement officers to arrest anyone based solely on the suspicion that the individual was in the country illegally.”
Governor Jan Brewer declared the ruling a victory, according to Politico. “Today is the day when the key components of our efforts to protect the citizens of Arizona, to take up the fight against illegal immigration in a balanced and constitutional way, has unanimously been vindicated by the highest court in the land,” she said. “Arizona’s and every other state’s inherent authority to protect and defend its people has been upheld.”
But the ruling “reignited concerns that the law could lead to widespread racial profiling and civil-rights violations by overzealous police targeting Hispanics, including U.S. citizens or those who are here legally,” The Arizona Republic reported. Writing at The Grio, Judith Browne Dianis said the decision is also “a mixed bag and a cautionary note for black folks” because anti-immigration laws “intrinsically include us in their broad sweep, as civil rights violations always do. ”
“I am pleased that the Supreme Court has struck down key provisions of Arizona’s immigration law,” President Obama said in a statement. “What this decision makes unmistakably clear is that Congress must act on comprehensive immigration reform. A patchwork of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system – it’s part of the problem.”
His administration went further. “Just hours after the Supreme Court issued its decision on SB1070, federal officials said they would immediately rescind a controversial federal-state partnership that uses local cops in Arizona to detain immigrants,” Colorlines reported.
Rival Mitt Romney took the opposite approach, according to The Washington Post. “I would have preferred to see the Supreme Court give more latitude to states, not less. And the states, now under this decision, have less authority, less latitude, to enforce immigration law,” he reportedly said at a fundraiser in Scottsdale.
The ruling could be a “boon” to the president, but Romney loses no matter what, said Howard Fineman at The Huffington Post. “Praise the court and [Romney] offends Latinos; fault it and he offends social conservatives who have made a crackdown on the undocumented a key Tea Party plank. … Since possession of a valid driver’s license is, under the Arizona law, sufficient proof of citizenship, the ruling will force legal residents and citizens to get them if they don’t have them. There’s no better place to run a registration drive than at or near a DMV. Most of those voters are likely to be Democrats, or at least Obama supporters,” Fineman wrote.
Either way, “Many politicians – and Americans in general – don’t understand the complex contours of Hispanic voters in America,” The Christian Science Monitor reported. The problem begins with the term Hispanic, which was reportedly “manufactured by Congress in 1976 to be an umbrella term that applies to all Americans of Spanish descent.”
Speaking of Hispanics, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference issued a statement stating, in part, that the Court “initiated the process of establishing a legal firewall against draconian measures as it pertains to immigration” and conveyed “a clear message that 21st century jurisprudence will not tolerate measures that polarize and segregate our communities.”
Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform also issued a statement, from Jim Wallis, that said, in part, “The decision to strike down key provisions of this legislation is a victory for everyone in the faith community who seeks to follow the Bible’s call for concern for the vulnerable and ‘stranger’ among us. Arizona’s immoral legislation threatened families, harmed children, and made it difficult for law enforcement to safeguard the communities they swore to protect; it remains important to ensure that any remaining parts of the legislation are never used to justify racial profiling by local police.”
The American Civil Liberties Union will devote $8.7 million to fight expansion of “show me your papers” laws in other states, its Executive Director Anthony D. Romero announced Monday. The ACLU will “aggressively battle any state’s attempts to enact copycat legislation while also fighting the ‘corrosive effects’ of existing anti-immigrant laws in Arizona and five other states,” its statement said.
It may be an uphill battle. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 55% of likely voters wanted SB1070 upheld, while only 26% wanted it overturned. Nineteen percent were undecided about the law.
What do you think?
Did the U.S. Supreme Court make the right decision?
Arizona’s strict anti-immigration law has made it a battleground for debate. But the real source of the problem is located far beyond the borders of the Grand Canyon State.
One Latino pastor’s open letter to Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona before the passage of the state’s strict new immigration law.
The following open letter to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, by New York pastor Gabriel Salguero, appeared at Sojourner’s God’s Politics blog prior to the passage of Arizona’s controversial new immigration law. Needless to say, Gov. Brewer was not persuaded by the letter. But Rev. Salguero’s points are still helpful to consider as the debate over immigration reform intensifies in our nation. — Editor
Esteemed Governor Brewer:
My wife and I are both Evangelical pastors who have unrelenting commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our parents are ministers and from an early age we were taught that a fundamental tenet of the Gospel is to love your neighbor and be hospitable to the stranger. It is with this commitment in mind that I write to you asking you to veto SB 1070.
The bill navigates dangerously close to an enforcement policy which lends itself to the very dangerous and undemocratic practice of racial profiling. In this country we have not required or insisted on people carrying documentation to prove their citizenship. If this law passes I run the danger of being arrested or detained for DRIVING WHILE BROWN in Arizona. This is not in keeping with the highest and most noble of U.S. ideals. If this law were enacted, my 90-year-old grandfather who is a World War II veteran could be detained without cause. Worse still, clergy and all people of good will who are called to serve all people regardless of race, gender, or birth origin would be exposed to being arrested and detained for following their call as servants of God. As Christians we cannot refuse to serve and love the immigrant, legal or not. The Gospel requires more of us.
What seems to me most troubling about SB 1070 is that it threatens to divide children from their parents and underline enforcement without providing any real common-sense and workable solutions to immigration challenges. Governor, by vetoing SB 1070 you have the opportunity to show real courage and leadership in a way that history will judge with honorable distinction.
Enforcement without comprehensive immigration reform is not the way forward. Comprehensive immigration reform is the way forward in ways that Arizona and the rest of the country win. Some time ago I blogged on The Washington Post website about why comprehensive immigration reform is what is best for this country. I send you some of my thoughts from that blog here, praying that it will influence you to do the wise and humane thing and veto SB 1070. Perhaps your veto will once again spark the conscience of this country to remember that the truest test of America’s character is how it treats the stranger, widow, and orphan.
• The economic question: They are a burden on our tax and economic system; why don’t they go home? Studies show that the close to 12 million undocumented immigrants, many of whom already pay taxes and Social Security, want to continue to contribute to the system. Comprehensive immigration reform should require these immigrants to pay back taxes, learn English, and wait in line behind the people who entered legally. The system as is does not allow for this integration nor does it address unscrupulous employers who exploit cheap labor. A new system that requires these immigrants to integrate and employers and employees to pay taxes will add hundreds of millions of dollars to the economy. The status quo does not in any way address this challenge; reform does. Reform can help the economy. The U.S. can and should have the creative genius to make this a win-win for all.
• The moral question: How do we balance respect for the rule of law and compassion for all people? This is a fair question. I think we should respect the law and that’s why any reform should include requiring the following: paying back-taxes, penalties to employers who may have circumvented the system, and borders being controlled and supervised in humane ways. Nevertheless, what do we do with the 12 million men, women, and children that are already here? Deportation is not reasonable and it remains beyond our economic capacities. In short, reform must include both respect for the rule of law and a way that integrates all people in common sense ways. Enforcement only is both a drain on our local law enforcement and economy and does not in any competent way address the issue of the millions of people here. THE LAW IS BROKEN. LET’S FIX IT.
• The faith question: What does the Church or my faith have to do with it? Simply stated, as a Christian I am mandated to love my neighbor as myself without prejudice to origin, color, or creed. Jesus himself reminds Christians to “welcome the stranger” in Matthew 25. In addition, the Torah of the Hebrew scriptures reminds us continually to be kind and merciful to the stranger, widow, and orphan. In the end a nation is judged by how it treats the most vulnerable among them. My faith compels me to speak for and with the immigrants and their families. Love thy neighbor does not have a border limitation.
Immigration reform is a moral issue that requires us to live up to the highest of our values. If Christ welcomed me unconditionally, should I do any less with others?
Rev. Gabriel Salguero