Split Decision: The Supreme Court Rules On Arizona’s SB 1070

By Arturo R. García

Graphic via Pinterest.com

About the only concrete statement Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said after the Supreme Court hampered her state’s attempt to further marginalize undocumented immigrants Monday was this matter isn’t settled yet.

Three of the bill’s four provisions were struck down by the Court, and while 1070′s “show me your papers” clause, which allows authorities to investigate one’s immigration status if they have “reasonable suspicion,” was spared, it did not escape unnoticed–or unscathed:

The opinions on both sides turned the suit into something of a referendum on the President’s recent decision to use the force of “prosecutorial discretion” to implement his own version of the DREAM Act, which lets illegal immigrants who came in as children and have met certain criteria since then remain in the country. And Obama won that referendum.

“Discretion in the enforcement of immigration law embraces immediate human concerns,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. “The equities of an individual case may turn on many factors, including whether the alien has children born in the United States, long ties to the community, or a record of distinguished military service.” Later in the decision, he added, “By authorizing state officers to decide whether an alien should be detained for being removable [a provision of S.B. 1070] violates the principle that the removal process is entrusted to the discretion of the Federal Government.”

Not long after the decision came down, the Department of Homeland Security effectively removed itself from the business of helping Arizona look up peoples’ immigration status. But not surprisingly, Brewer clung to the only bit of good news for her administration at her comically brief press conference Monday:

But as María Chavez observed at Racism Review, this case was debated on narrower ground than many people would have liked:

Even before the solicitor general began speaking midway through the argument, Chief Justice John Roberts framed the debate away from what has become a major complaint about the law: that it would target mostly Hispanic people for scrutiny and detention. “I’d like to clear up at the outset what it’s not about,” Roberts said. “No part of your argument has to do with racial or ethnic profiling, does it?” [Solicitor General Donald] Verrilli readily agreed.

But both advocates and opponents of SB 1070 would probably agree that Roberts might not be able to avoid talking about the ethnic profiling at the heart of the truncated law for much longer. Because, as Presente.org’s Arturo Carmona told The Huffington Post, that’s where it can still do the most damage.

“The biggest concerns for families and residents of Arizona, when you talk to them, is being asked for their papers,” Carmona said. “Of the provisions of SB 1070, this part of the law is the most visible, it’s certainly the most egregious, and it has the most direct contact with families and communities on the ground.”

  • Pingback: Things I’ve Learned This Week « geekalitarian

  • Anonymous

     Everyone seems to forget that civil rights organizations already have a pending lawsuit that takes on the racial profiling problem very directly.  That litigation has basically been waiting for this decision before proceeding, but now it can go on, and even section 2(b) may be enjoined again.

  • Anonymous

     Everyone seems to forget that civil rights organizations already have a pending lawsuit that takes on the racial profiling problem very directly.  That litigation has basically been waiting for this decision before proceeding, but now it can go on, and even section 2(b) may be enjoined again.