Supreme Court ruling against SB 1070 draws praise from Latinos, Dems

The United States Supreme Court today ruled several key parts of Arizona’s immigration enforcement law, SB-1070, unconstitutional. The Court did uphold Arizona’s right to require law enforcement officers to ask for proof of a person’s legal status whenever they have stopped someone for a legitimate purpose and have reasonable suspicion that the person is in the country illegally.

The Court noted, though, that depending on how that part of the law is implemented, there could be room for legal challenges to that provision as well.

Critics, who refer to that part of the law as the “papers please” clause, say it would effectively legalize racial profiling.

The court ruled that Arizona cannot require immigrants to carry proof of their legal status at all times. It also ruled that Arizona police cannot detain someone simply on the suspicion that they are in the country illegally. The court also ruled Arizona cannot make it a crime for undocumented immigrants to apply for employment.

“We are ecstatic today,” said DeeDee Garcia Blase, co-president of the Tequila Party Movement and immediate-past president of Somos Republicans.

“We won [on] three out of four [provisions], and on the fourth, they ruled very narrowly and said even that’s open to challenge. The Latino community is generally very happy today. We couldn’t have asked for a better ruling,” she told the Independent.

“I am pleased that the Supreme Court invalidated the bulk of Arizona’s discredited anti-immigrant law…[T]his ruling makes clear that we must have one federal law that finally fixes our broken immigration system,” said U.S. Rep. Jared Polis in a prepared statement.

“The people who are blaming President Obama for Congress’s failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform are the same people who praised Arizona’s discredited anti-immigrant law as a ‘model’ or who stood on the sidelines while Senate Republicans defeated the DREAM Act in December 2010. They should be arguing with their fellow Republicans on the need for a comprehensive solution rather than casting blame,” Polis continued.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the majority of the Arizona law underscores that it is the federal government’s responsibility to enforce our nation’s immigration laws,” Sen. Mark Udall said. “It also gives further cause for Congress to act on reforming our immigration policy to be tough on lawbreakers and fair to taxpayers while keeping our borders secure. We need to work toward a bipartisan solution to our immigration challenges, while ensuring that we build adequate protections against profiling and discrimination. We cannot fully address the issue of illegal immigration with a patchwork of different laws across the country. Congress needs to act on comprehensive immigration reform.”

Democratic U.S. Sen, Michael Bennet largely agreed with Udall and Polis that the onus is on Congress to pass meaningful reform.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling on Arizona’s immigration law has made it clear that Congress has the responsibility to enact a comprehensive and practical immigration policy,” Bennet said today.

“Colorado’s families, businesses, law enforcement and communities have suffered mightily from congressional inaction – from farmers facing growing labor shortages to hardworking and educated young people with few options for the future to business owners struggling to retain top talent for high-tech jobs and mountain resorts dealing with an unworkable visa system,” Bennet continued. “We should take this ruling as yet another cue that we need to do the work to address this problem.”

Mike Cerbo, executive director of Colorado AFL-CIO, said he was pleased with the decision overall, but disappointed that the court upheld a part of the law that he said could lead to racial profiling.

“The Court clearly rejected Arizona-style overreach as unconstitutional, but disappointingly, the conservative justices failed to stop the current civil rights crisis and protect the constitutional rights of Arizona’s families by leaving in place the most dangerous provision, the 2b “racial profiling” provision,” Cerbo said.

Michael Fix, senior vice president of the Migration Policy Institute and co-director of the National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy, said the Court today made it clear that immigration policy can only be set at the federal level.

“What the Supreme Court is saying is that the states can’t impose on unauthorized immigrants more punitive sanctions than the federal government. They can, however, adjust the intensity of their permitted enforcement activity — in this case compelling state and local officers, during the course of an otherwise authorized stop, to inquire into the immigration status of those whom they suspect to be in the country illegally.

“While this ruling imposes some restrictions on the states, it can still lead to quite differing climates of reception for immigrant populations depending on how states interpret and embrace this ruling,” Fix said in a press release.

James W. Ziglar, MPI senior fellow and a former INS Commissioner, said, “The Supreme Court has confirmed a long-established principle in federal immigration law, policy and history that America must speak and act as one country and one people.”

Ziglar once served as a clerk to late Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun and has taught immigration and constitutional law at the George Washington University Law Center.

“The justices have by and large followed precedent. Even the portion of the opinion that upholds the requirement that police check immigration status does so in a very cautionary way,” he said today in a prepared statement. “The court suggests that an overly broad implementation of Section 2(B) could cause that provision to be constitutionally defective.

“In the closing part of its opinion, the court reflected on America’s history as a nation of immigrants and said: ‘Immigration policy shapes the destiny of the nation… The history of the United States is in part made of the stories, talents and lasting contributions of those who crossed oceans and deserts to come here.’”

Cerbo said Colorado’s legislature would be wise to steer clear of similar legislation.

“Republican state legislators across the country have said that they would let the outcome of this decision influence their agenda for the coming legislative term. But our leaders in Colorado would be wise to look to the lessons of Arizona and Alabama, where laws like SB 1070 have divided communities, subjected residents to suspicion because of the color of their skin, and threatened their economic recovery,” Cerbo said in a prepared statement. “While it’s true that the United States of America’s immigration system is broken, the path of Arizona and Alabama is unconstitutional and contrary to deeply-rooted American values..

“Our broken immigration system is a national crisis that can only be solved nationally. Rather than creating policies to fix the tough problems facing working families, congressional Republicans have blocked comprehensive immigration reform at every turn. It’s time for Congress to put politics aside and get to work to pass this necessary legislation.”

Read the court’s opinion here.

[ U.S. Supreme Court by DeltaMike via Flickr ]

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.