It’s time for a showdown on SB 1070. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether a state has the right to pass its own immigration regulations, arguing that they are complementary to the federal government’s work.
The government of Arizona appealed to the high court the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which set aside the law’s most controversial provisions. The four parts of the law being questioned can be summarized as: do federal immigration laws “prevail” over state laws, and do states have “inherent authority” to arrest people based only on suspicion that they have violated federal immigration laws?
The latter aspect includes the issue of the use of racial profiling by law enforcement officials to determine from a distance who is suspicious and who isn’t.
We think the court should affirm previous decisions against SB 1070, based both on legal precedent and the unlawfulness of racial profiling. However, it’s very hard to predict anything in light of the history of conservative activism that has characterized this Supreme Court.
The justices have broad options, including accepting and/or rejecting parts of the law, and limiting this decision to Arizona or expanding it to other states with similar laws. In addition, there is the unusual possibility of a 4-4 tie-which would mean a defeat for Arizona-because of Justice Elena Kagan’s decision to recuse herself from this case.
Everyone’s eyes are on the high court. The justices’ questions and comments will be thoroughly analyzed to try to guess the ruling that is likely to be issued in June.
What is at play is the possibility that tens of millions of Latinos, undocumented immigrants, legal permanent residents and U.S.-born citizens will have to carry their residency papers because they might be suspected of violating immigration laws. The reasons for the suspicions could be the color of their skin, the way they’re dressed, their accent and other stereotypes that will in fact become legal if Arizona’s law is ratified.
We hope today is the beginning of the end of the dreadful SB 1070 and its copycat legislation that has been swarming around the country.