Court Ruling Invites More Racial Profiling in Arizona

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NNIRR's Response to the US Supreme Court Ruling on Arizona's SB 1070:

Need to Ensure Rights, End Discrimination against 'Reasonably Suspicious' (Brown) People

In allowing the notorious "show me your papers" provision of Arizona's SB 1070 bill, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively supports the rollback of rights and protections that have been long fought for and honored in this country -- specifically,  the freedom from racial discrimination. Importantly, the Court struck down the other three provisions that had been challenged in the case.

Ruling on whether or not the "show me your papers" provision (Section 2B) "pre-empted" federal authority in immigration, the highest court in the country decided it was "premature" to block it. However, we are alarmed that this provision, very much the heart of SB 1070, can only be implemented through racial profiling.

The provision requires state and local law enforcement to determine the immigration status of any person lawfully stopped, detained or arrested whenever there is "reasonable suspicion" that the person may be undocumented, and to verify that person's status with the federal government.

As an Arizona community leader has pointed out, "and we know what 'reasonable suspicion' is: brown skin."

Although the ruling left open the potential for legal challenges on the implementation of the law, we are deeply concerned, in the meantime, about the rights and protections of our communities in Arizona. Already, it has been the practice of police in the Tucson sector to "hold" people they have stopped for 20 minutes until they can make contact with a federal agent - not a problem given that there are literally thousands of Border Patrol agents constantly milling around, particularly with the decrease in cross border migration. This practice will undoubtedly increase the number of immigrants who are being detained and deported simply because they were driving their children to school, going to a grocery store, or just going about their daily lives.

While the ruling, overall, reaffirmed that the federal government has the exclusive authority to regulate immigration, we cannot forget that it was the federal government's introduction of programs such as 287g (authorizing local and state policing agencies to engage in immigration enforcement) and Secure Communities that laid the groundwork for state initiatives like SB 1070. 

SB 1070 was just one of many divisive pieces of state legislation (like the 'stand your ground' law) drafted by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council and promoted by conservative policymakers, who claimed the federal authorities were not doing enough to "stop illegal immigration." While states may avoid legislative language that was struck down by the Supreme Court, more copycat bill efforts may be renewed that are centered on the "show me your papers" provision. 

The Supreme Court ruling, as well as the temporary nature of the recent reprieve from deportation for some young immigrants, continue to point to the need for a fair and just legalization program that will ensure access to rights and freedom from the fear of deportation for undocumented immigrants. We will continue to challenge anti-immigrant state laws and punitive federal enforcement programs like Secure Communities that result in detentions, record-level deportations and the separation of families.

As strategies to resist the effects of SB 1070 are underway in Arizona and elsewhere, we join our members in Arizona in calling for a repeal of SB 1070 in its entirety and urge vigilance in the monitoring of SB 1070 as it is implemented. We further call on President Obama to take all necessary steps to protect the communities of Arizona and other states from the scourge of racial discrimination, harassment, and abuse and to commit to humane, fair and durable immigration reforms.

For background material and resources on the Supreme Court ruling and SB 1070, please see our blog here.