The majority reached the conclusion that the federal government has the power to block SB 1070. The verdict blocks various aspects except the most controversial: the police can still request identification.
The United States Supreme Court dictated yesterday that only the federal government has the power to pass laws against illegal immigration. According to the court’s decision, Arizona went too far by enacting the law known as SB 1070. The highest court of the United States rendered the majority of that law’s provisions ineffective, except, perhaps, the most controversial: allowing police to question the immigration status of whomever they deem necessary. “Show Me Your Papers,” as the regulation is commonly known, may be the subject of additional lawsuits, the judges argue.
It was this component of the law that mobilized the Latino population in Arizona, after dealing with harassment from Sheriff Arpaio’s agents – the sheriff, himself, is well-known known for his undisguised racist remarks. After the Supreme Court’s judgment, the police will still be able to stop someone if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the United States illegally, something unusual in a country that doesn’t even have a national identification card.
However, the ruling is a partial victory for Barack Obama’s administration, in so far as the Supreme Court has confirmed that states cannot make regulations on the subject of immigration. With five votes in favor and three against, the court repealed several clauses: Arizona – with its nearly 600 kilometer-long border with Mexico – can no longer consider it a crime for immigrants not to carry their immigration documents on their persons (thus allowing the police cause to take suspects down to the precinct in order to check their immigration status); Arizona may not consider it a criminal act to apply for a job without papers; and the state may no longer arrest people solely on the suspicion that they are living in the country illegally.
“Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration,” writes Justice Anthony Kennedy for the majority’s decision, “But the state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.”
Justices Ruth Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Chief Justice John Roberts supported Kennedy’s opinion, conceding very little authority to the states on the topic of immigration. Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito each wrote their own statements. The most intransigent statement of the three was issued by Scalia and suggested that Arizona’s sovereignty has been left unprotected since the state has been deprived its right to “exclude from the sovereign’s territory people who have no right to be there.”
The controversial SB 1070 was enacted by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer in April 2010 and was met with strong criticism from civil rights groups who consider it a form of racial discrimination.
The Supreme Court’s decision comes at a time when the topic of immigration is hotter than ever. With the presidential elections just five months away, every vote counts and the Latino vote is large. Obama expressed his satisfaction yesterday in a statement: “What this decision makes unmistakably clear is that Congress must act on comprehensive immigration reform. A patchwork of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system -- it’s part of the problem.”