By William Ide
The Supreme Court of the United States has struck down several key portions of a tough immigration law, enacted by the state of Arizona in 2010 to help police crackdown on illegal immigrants. The most controversial part of the law, however, which allows state police officers to check the immigration status of people they stop for other reasons was allowed to remain.
Although the Supreme Court’s decision on Monday struck down three key parts of the law, the high court noted that its decision to uphold the so-called “show me your papers” provision will likely lead to more legal challenges as it is implemented.
Based on what opponents of the law had to say on the steps of the Supreme Court on Monday, it is clear the fight is still far from over.
“This is a dark day for civil rights in America,” said Deepak Bhargava.
Deepak Bhargava of the Center for Community Change says the upholding of the “show me your papers” clause would make many, including U.S. citizens, a target of Arizona’s immigration crackdown efforts.
“The Supreme Court today upheld racial profiling by states that will have the impact of U.S. citizens being profiled and persecuted for no reason other than their race or the color of their skin,” he said. “This is a disastrous decision for civil rights and civil liberties in America.”
Surrounded by barbed wire, Jorge Mendez joins others from Promise Arizona to protest the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision on Arizona’s immigration law SB1070 at a vigil set up in front of the Capitol in Phoenix,June 22, 2012.
But Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an outspoken proponent of the Arizona law, says local authorities have received thorough training on carrying out the identification checks. After the Supreme Court ruling, he spoke in support of the state’s need to carry out the “show me your papers” clause.
“It’s to determine whether if you’re in the country illegally and when you have suspicion,” said Arpaio. “I think that’s important, we’ve been doing it for four years. I think it’s a good ruling.”
President Barack Obama says he is pleased with the Supreme Court’s ruling, adding that what is clear from the decision is that the U.S. Congress must act on immigration reform. But he voiced concern that the “show me your papers” provision of the law was not struck down.
Currently five other states have variations of the law similar to Arizona’s and were waiting the Supreme Court ruling to begin applying their own solutions to the issue of immigration.
In a statement on the ruling Obama argued that a patchwork of state laws is not the solution to the country’s broken immigration system.
Immigration is a hotly debated topic in this year’s presidential election campaign. President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and Mitt Romney, the likely Republican challenger, are courting Hispanic voters, who are deeply concerned about the issue.
Romney used the ruling to denounce Obama for the lack of an immigration plan. He said every state “has the duty – and the right – to secure our borders” when the federal government “has failed to meet its responsibilities.”
Supporters of the Arizona law say it was the federal government’s inability to enforce national immigration laws that forced the state to adopt the legislation.
The Supreme Court expressed empathy for the state’s concerns about immigration, but noted that it had overstepped its legal bounds with key portions of the law.
In the ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that although “Arizona may have understandable frustrations” with its illegal immigration problems, the state could not pursue “policies that undermine federal law.”
The justices rejected three provisions of the Arizona law – ones that make it a crime for immigrants without work permits to seek employment, make it a crime for immigrants to fail to carry registration documents, and authorize the police to arrest any immigrant they believe to be deportable.
Five of the Supreme Court’s justices voted to strike down the three provisions; while the dissenting justices argued that the entire law or key parts of it should have been upheld.