Portions of Arizona’s Anti-Immigrant Law Appear to Have Supreme Court Support

April 25, 2012

by Jeremy Leaming

Arizona’s racial profiling law, which has prompted other states to enact or consider similar measures, appears to have a strong chance of surviving Supreme Court scrutiny.

Following oral argument in Arizona v. United States, Adam Liptak, high court correspondent for The New York Times, wrote that justices “across the ideological spectrum appeared inclined to uphold a controversial part,” of the law, and Robert Barnes, of The Washington Post, said the Court “seemed receptive” to the state’s argument that its racial profiling law “was a valid exercise of its power to protect its borders.”

SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston reports that the justices “focused tightly on the actual operation of the four specific provisions of the law at issue, and most of the Court seemed prepared to accept that Arizona police would act in measured ways as they arrest and detain individuals they think might be in the U.S. illegally.”

Reporting for TPM, Sahil Kapur said that while it appeared “some aspects” of Arizona’s law might survive, “no clear majority emerged one way or another.” Kapur noted that several of the justices appeared to wrestle “with how far states can go in writing immigration laws before they encroach on what is widely regarded as federal turf.”

Although it appeared, as Denniston noted, the justices were confident that Arizona police would act reasonably in enforcing the law, an account from a longtime Arizona citizen suggests the reality of enforcement holds otherwise.

In a piece for The Guardian Jim Shee, an American citizen of Chinese and Spanish descent writes of his encounters with Arizona police after enactment of S.B. 1070.

Shee tells of two incidents where Arizona cops stopped him and demanded documentation of his citizenship, calling them “humiliating and terrifying.”

His wife, a Japanese-American “faces the specter of the same police scrutiny,” he writes. “The law invites police to rely on their racial bias when deciding who to stop, so our skin color means we’re more likely to be targeted. Like most Americans, I never carried around my passport. Now, my wife and I always take ours when we leave the house.”

Shee concludes, in part, that the “days when laws were passed that led to discrimination should be confined to their history classes.”

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) during a Senate hearing yesterday on Arizona’s anti-immigrant law said that he and other senators may introduce legislation aimed at barring the states from creating a patchwork of immigration laws.

“Congress,” he said, “does not intend for the states to enforce their own immigration schemes. It is simply too damaging to our economy and too dangerous to our democracy, to have 50 different states be permitted to take their own direction when it comes to immigration policy.”

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (pictured), who signed the anti-immigrant measure into law, refused an invitation to appear before the committee to defend the law.

Brewer, however, in an April 25 press statement said she was confident the law would survive Supreme Court scrutiny because “Arizona’s cause is just and its course is true.”

Others hardly believe it is justifiable or realistic for states to pass laws aimed at expelling 11 million undocumented immigrants, most of who have lived and worked in the country for more than a decade.

[image via Gage Skidmore]