Arizona Is Defeated Again

Arizona’s anti immigrant laws have been collapsing one by one, slowly but surely, under constitutional pressure. This week it was the turn of Proposition 100, which barred state courts from setting bail for undocumented immigrants accused of committing a crime.

The ballot initiative was approved by Arizona voters in 2006 amidst the statewide anti-undocumented furor that, years later, would produce the infamous SB 1070 law thanks to governor Jan Brewer and legislator Russell Pearce. Proposition 100, whose author was Pearce, is now buried along with the most restrictive clauses of SB 1070.

Arizona voters, just like Californians with Proposition 187, approved a bill just to punish immigrants. As with Prop. 187, Courts ruled it unconstitutional, making it clear that although majorities rule, that does not give them the power to do anything they want. The historical role of tribunals has been, and is, to protect minorities from the excesses of majorities.

In this case, six members of the Supreme Court refused to hear the case of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had declared Proposition 100 a violation of due process because it imposes a punishment – denying bail – before trial. When there is a serious crime, like first-degree murder or rape, bail can be denied as a matter of public safety, but this is not the case.

Here, somebody who stole a pizza slice gets the same treatment as a murderer, only because of being undocumented. This is not legal. The authorities’ worries that an accused might fail to show up to court is not enough to prevent him from a hearing to determine if he can be considered for bail.

For Pearce, Brewer, sheriff Arpaio and many others who think like them, undocumented immigrants do not deserve justice nor legal protection. It is as if their fragile migratory situation make them more like objects and less human. The judges’ dismissal is a blow, an also a warning for the anti immigrant crowd in Arizona and the rest of the country.