Supreme Court Ruling On Arizona Immigration Bill - FCNL's Perspective
Rejected Three Provisions, Upheld One
The Supreme Court's decision on Arizona v. U.S. rejected Arizona's attempt to take immigration law into its own hands and affirmed some basic principles of law and of human rights.
The Court ruled that Arizona cannot make it a state crime for an undocumented immigrant to be in Arizona or apply for a job in the state. The Court pointed out repeatedly that, under U.S. law, it is not a crime for an individual to be in this country or to work without legal documentation. These may be civil violations, but not crimes, and states cannot change that.
Under this ruling, Arizona police cannot arrest and detain a person just because they believe he or she is in the country illegally. The Court did allow Arizona police to check the immigration status of people who were being stopped or detained for some other reason, provided the "status check" did not cause any delays in their release from the routine stop. The Court noted that federal and local authorities can share information to help U.S. authorities enforce immigration laws. It said, however, that this law will be open to further challenge once it is implemented. (The Arizona law had been enjoined--stopped before it went into effect--so the Court had no way of knowing whether the implementation of this section would lead to racial profiling or other violations of civil rights or other U.S. laws.) Immigrants' rights groups in Arizona and Alabama point out that they already have experience with racial profiling, and that they believe local police will stop and detain a person who cannot produce acceptable identification.
This was a strong decision that struck down three key provisions in Arizona's law, affirming clearly that states may not take the enforcement of federal laws into their own hands. Unfortunately, it did leave one dangerous provision in place, which is likely to lead to racial profiling. Though advocates are confident that this provision will be struck down as a violation of civil rights, in the meantime, the rights of people in Arizona - citizens and non-citizens alike - are likely to be violated.
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