Supreme Court Rules on Arizona SB1070

This morning the Supreme Court struck down most of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB1070, but upheld one crucial provision.  The Court allowed the portion of the law that allows police to check the immigration status of people they stop for other violations.  Essentially, this means that if officers stop a person for committing an offense and suspect that person is undocumented, the officials may attempt to verify person’s immigration status.  The Court left open the possibility that this part of the law, which has been enjoined pending the Court’s decision, could be challenged later depending on how it is implemented.

The Court struck down several other portions of SB1070 as conflicting with the federal government’s exclusive ability to regulate immigration.  The parts of the law that were thrown out include provisions that:

  • Make it a state crime for immigrants without work permits to seek employment
  • Make it a state crime for immigrants to fail to carry registration or identification documents
  • Authorize the police to arrest people without a warrant if they are suspected of being deportable.

In overturning these provisions, the Court reaffirmed the federal government’s significant, broad power (called preemption) to regulate immigration and reaffirmed that States cannot pass laws that conflict with federal policy or undermine federal authority in this area.

If you are interested in reading analysis of the decision, please see “Supreme Court upholds Key Parts of Arizona Law” (Wall Street Journal), “Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Provisions of Arizona Immigration Law” (NPR) or “Supreme Court Sides with U.S. in Arizona Immigration Case”(CNN).  If you are interested in reading the entire decision you can find it here.

HRI has been opposed to SB1070 (and similar laws that have been enacted in other states) since its inception.  Although we understand the frustration that States feel at the federal government’s failure to enact comprehensive immigration reform, we are opposed to any such local legislation because it is unconstitutional (as the Supreme Court affirmed), costly, can lead to racial profiling, and, most importantly, will likely deter crime victims from reporting criminal activity.  Through our extensive work with immigrant victims of serious crimes we understand that laws like SB1070 make communities less safe and reduce cooperation between immigrant crime victims and law enforcement. The legislation is contradictory in both spirit and effect to the U Visa program, which encourages immigrant victims of violent crime to assist police in finding and punishing criminals by rewarding qualified immigrants with legal status. Under the portion of SB1070 that was upheld, there is a significant possibility that immigrant victims of crime will avoid the police, due to a fear that their immigration status will be questioned, instead of reporting crimes and helping the police catch serious criminals.

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