The Legal Battle Begins Against SB 1070

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

aclu1Yesterday, the ACLU and a coalition of civil rights groups announced the filing of a federal suit contesting Arizona’s recently-enacted SB 1070 before it takes effect, calling it “the most extreme and dangerous of all the recent local and state laws purporting to deal with immigration issues.”

“It will cause discrimination, hostility and suspicion based on color, accent and appearance,” said Lucas Guttentag, director of the ACLU’s Immigrant Law Project. “This law turns ‘Show Me Your Papers’ Into the Arizona state motto.”

The 14 plaintiff organizations named in the suit, filed in U.S. District Court, represent a variety of POC groups: MALDEF, National Immigration Law Center, the NAACP, National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center.

Also represented are 10 individual plaintiffs., including Jim Shee, an American citizen who has been pulled over twice since SB 1070 was signed, and New Mexico resident Jesus Cuahtemoc Villa, Jesus Cuahtemoc Villa, who attends Arizona State University and alleges he could be arrested under the statute because the law only recognizes Arizona-issued identification.

Shee’s case seems to parallel the arrest of an Arizona truck driver who was arrested last week despite providing authorities with both a commercial driver’s license and a Social Security card, and incarcerated until his wife was able to provide his birth certificate.

Linton Joaquin, who serves as NILC’s General Counsel, said the law’s inevitable result will be less safety for everyone in Arizona.

“From beginning to end, SB 1070 is a misguided effort to legislate immigration control,” Joaquin said.

Public reaction to the law, which Guttentag said would take effect in late July, has been divided. According to a survey taken earlier this month by the Pew Resource Center, NBC and The Wall Street Journal, SB 1070 has attracted a mostly positive response:

sb support1

That sentiment is likely behind incidents like the alleged verbal abuse of a Mexican high school student Augustine Ortiz in San Antonio, Texas. According to The San Antonio Express-News:

[Ortiz's English teacher] proceeded to single him out repeatedly, Ortiz said, pointing at him as she made comments like, “The Mexicans with their attitudes are the racist ones.”

Continuing to point at Ortiz, she allegedly told the class that Mexicans always “expect handouts” and “soon it’s going to be the United States of Mexico,” according to Ortiz.

At the same time, however, sentiment against 1070 appear to be gaining steam, as well: thousands of protesters around the country held demonstrations against the law on May 1; and several cities, including Seattle, Oakland, and Los Angeles, have passed ordinances favoring an economic boycott of Arizona. Several other civic and business groups have also teamed up for a petition urging Major League Baseball to remove next year’s All-Star Game from Phoenix.

In citing the danger of states creating their own immigration statutes, APALC litigation director Julie Su mentioned the precedent created by past race-based legislation like the Chinese Exclusion Act.

“As was true then, the criminalization of an entire race, and fear driven by economic insecurity, make for bad public policy,” Su said. “The Japanese in Arizona who remember what it was like to be imprisoned in the state’s internment camps can tell you that race-baiting and racial profiling are not only un-American, they make us less safe, not more safe … Not only does the state have no authority to pass its’ own immigration law, but the Asian community knows well that racism and scapegoating lead only to laws that destroy our cohesion as a nation.”