Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled on the controversial Arizona law SB1070. The 5-3 ruling was a generally positive one: out of the four provisions that were challenged by the Obama Administration as being pre-empted by federal immigration law, the High Court agreed and struck down three of them. The three sections that were enjoined were Sections 3, 5(C), and 6. Section 3 criminalized failure to carry “registration” papers or proof of legal status; Section 5 would have penalized immigrants who worked without authorization; and Section 6 would have, in effect, given local police broad authority to arrest any immigrant suspected of having committed a “removable” offense. Thankfully, the Court ruled that Arizona overstepped its bounds in trying to regulate and enforce federal immigration laws. Unfortunately, The Supreme Court did not entirely quash this inimical legislation, unwittingly leaving the door open for potential abuse of power. Section 2(B)–the provision which requires local police to investigate the immigration status of an individual during the course of stop or arrest if there is reasonable suspicion to believe that the person is in the United States illegally–survived the Court’s analysis, at least for now. The Majority ruled that striking down Section 2(B) was premature in the absence of any empirical evidence demonstrating how the law was being applied. Should the law be abused or result in constitutional violations, the issue could, however, be revisited. We will have to wait and see how the law is actually applied in Arizona, but the specter of racial profiling is a major and very realistic concern for foreign-born residents. Under this statute, even lawful permanent residents and US citizens may be unnecessarily detained and singled out on account of their appearance, since it may not be so readily apparent that they are lawfully here. In the hands of someone with xenophobic tendencies, this could lead to a police state. Can you imagine how this would go over in New York, where there are so many people of color from a variety of cultural backgrounds?! It is hard to even fathom, but this is what immigrants living in Arizona may soon have to undergo….
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