The Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments on Wednesday in Arizona v. United States, regarding the Justice Department’s challenge to the controversial anti-immigration law in Arizona, the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, otherwise known as Arizona SB 1070, or the “Papers please” law. To provide some background on the racist roots of this legislation: SB 1070 was sponsored by former Republican Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, and signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010. Pearce received assistance from Kris Kobach and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in drafting the legislation—FAIR has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and has connections on its board of directors to the eugenics movement and other White Nationalist organizations— and much of the language of SB 1070 was drafted at a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), alongside officials of the Corrections Corporation of America. In 2010, NPR published a story on the relationship between Pearce’s bill and private prison companies.
SB 1070 is being challenged by the Obama administration, which argues that measures that provide for arrests and penalties under the so-called “reasonable suspicion” of being an undocumented immigrant amount to racial profiling and are unconstitutional.
While the final vote will not come until June, according to the Washington Post, Supreme Court justices strongly suggested Wednesday that they were skeptical of the administration’s case against SB 1070 and ready to allow Arizona to allow police officers to check the immigration status of people they “think” are in the country illegally. If this law holds, it will set the precedent for states circumventing federal immigration policies and enacting their own (racist and unconstitutional) anti-immigrant policies, as we’ve already seen take place (to the detriment of human rights and economic well-being) in Georgia, Utah, and Alabama. That these laws have made parents remove their (U.S. citizen) children from elementary schools and farmers leave the farms they are working on out of fear of deportation, shows just how hateful and powerful the anti-immigrant movement in America has become.
We should protect the human rights of people who come to this country to work hard, educate their children, and make a better life for themselves and their families. We should remove racist anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona and other states, as well as end the Obama administration’s record-setting deportation practices, which tear families and communities apart. According to figures released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Obama administration deported nearly 400,000 undocumented immigrants last fiscal year, setting a shameful record high for deportations for the third straight year (including deporting 46,686 parents who had at least one U.S. citizen child in the first half of 2011 alone).
If the Supreme Court’s decision in this case in June comes out in favor of states being able to promote racial profiling, hatred, and the criminalization of immigrants, few will be surprised, as it would reflect an “American dream” in which liberty and justice for some has prevailed. However, if the Supreme Court stands against racism, and rejects Arizona SB 1070, it may provide the momentum necessary for future comprehensive federal immigration reform that actually protects liberty and justice for all people in this country.