On Monday, the Supreme Court struck down three key provisions of the controversial Arizona law aimed at stemming illegal immigration — SB 1070 — while upholding the most controversial measure, which allows law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of everyone they stop or arrest.
The ruling — although the Supreme Court indicated that it will allow further challenges — opens the door for other states to pass similar laws. California is unlikely to do so, but in a state and county with large Latino and immigrant populations, people are contemplating the ramifications of the decision.
Congressmember Lois Capps said in a statement, “I am pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision to block the implementation of most of Arizona’s misguided immigration law. But I am concerned that the ‘show me your papers’ provision allowed to stand keeps the door open to discrimination and profiling based solely on a person’s appearance — a dangerous violation of civil rights. I hope the Court reviews this provision further and eventually overturns it.”
In fact, many who oppose the law do so on the grounds that it opens the door to racial profiling. “In the part of the decision that said police can stop people who they suspect to be here illegally and ask for their papers, that’s racial profiling as far as the public is concerned,” said Santa Barbara immigration lawyer Arnold Jaffe. What Jaffe called racial profiling, though, the Santa Barbara-based Californians for Population Control Stabilization, which applauded the ruling, called “reasonable suspicion.”
Congressmember Elton Gallegly, who represents portions of Santa Barbara County — almost a quarter of whose residents are immigrants, 34 percent of those being citizens, according to a recent survey by the California Immigrant Policy Center — said in a statement that he would have preferred the entire Arizona law to stand. He also complained about a recent executive order of President Barack Obama’s that essentially replicates the DREAM Act in deferring the deportation of young people who came to the United States under the age of 16 and who meet other certain requirements.
Possibly complicating matters further is California Assembly Bill 1081, known as the TRUST Act, which would preclude California from detaining people for deportation by Immigration and Custom Enforcement under the Secure Communities program. The bill just made it out of committee, but Assemblymember Das Williams abstained from voting for an earlier version of it in May because “no one was able to illustrate a single incident of someone from Santa Barbara or Ventura Counties being deported because of committing an infraction.” He said he would support an anti-profiling bill.
The three elements of the Arizona law that the Supreme Court struck down as a result of a challenge by the Obama administration would have barred illegal immigrants from searching for work in a public place, allowed for warrantless arrests of immigrants suspected of deportable crimes, and required immigrants to carry documentation at all times. Such laws, the majority of the court argued, would have usurped the jurisdiction of the federal government to set immigration policy.
Where local federal officials all agreed was that comprehensive immigration reform would obviate the need for a patchwork of state and national policies. “Today’s Supreme Court ruling sent the clear message,” said Abel Maldonado, who is challenging Capps for the 24th District seat, “that the responsibility to address immigration falls on the shoulders of the federal government. This is an American issue, not a partisan one.”
Hazel Putney, director of organizing for the advocacy nonprofit PUEBLO, explained that when local police agencies enforce immigration laws, they erode the trust of the community. “[Police officers] have hard jobs, a lot of responsibilities. To then add immigration enforcement to their plate is a lot to expect and is problematic.”