An incomplete ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling emphatically reaffirms that the precedence of the federal government over immigration matters trumps the arguments of some states that they have the right to implement their own legislation.

Unfortunately, the law’s most controversial provision remained; it gives local law enforcement officers power similar to that of immigration officers to ask about someone’s immigration status.

The ruling itself is a defeat for the states of Arizona and Alabama. Arizona’s residents will remain safe from three of four SB 1070 provisions-those requiring all immigrants to carry documentation, making it a crime for undocumented immigrants to work and allowing warrantless arrests of those suspected of being undocumented-since they are under federal jurisdiction.

However, we are greatly concerned that the provision allowing the police to inquire about a person’s immigration status during the investigation of a misdemeanor or crime if they are suspected of being undocumented was upheld. In this case, the discriminatory effect of applying the law was not discussed. That is why it is important to highlight that the ruling does not close the SB 1070 chapter. We must monitor the implementation of its remaining provision.

It is not unusual for courts to wait until laws are implemented and people are affected before agreeing to hear cases related to civil rights. A case involving “racial profiling” will probably come up in Arizona once SB 1070 is implemented.

In any case, the high court took an important step in discouraging state immigration laws-but it did not go far enough in its mission by not forbidding police from carrying out a function that should be exclusively handled by immigration officers. This provision, as is, undermines the trust immigrant communities have in their local authorities.

What is now clear is the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform-a reform that, in addition to security, takes into account the needs of our country’s economy and the stability of millions of workers. This will modernize an antiquated legal framework and lead to a clear federal immigration policy that prevents unconstitutional excesses like the one that happened in Arizona.