Hot on the heels of executive action on immigration earlier this month, the Supreme Court struck down three of the worst provisions of the controversial anti-illegal immigration Arizona Senate Bill 1070 earlier this week. These provisions include: one in which legal immigrants must have registration documents on their person at all times; one that permits state police to arrest any individual they deem to be an illegal immigrant; and one that forbids any illegal immigrant to seek, or hold, employment in the United States.
The Supreme Court stopped short of striking down the controversial “show me your papers” provision, on the basis that such a challenge was “premature” without “at least some indication that Arizona has implemented it in a manner at odds with Congress’ clear and manifest intent.” This language suggests that this provision could be subject to future challenge if not implemented very carefully. Unfortunately, until this challenge is made, the survival of this provision will almost certainly result in racial profiling by authorizing police to confirm the immigration status of an individual they have stopped, detained or arrested, if they have reason to suspect that the individual might be in the country illegally. Congressman Luis Gutierrez described this provision best during his remarks on the House floor yesterday, where he referred to this provision as “a problem for every American who cares about freedom . . . a problem for all of us who believe no person should be treated as a suspect based on how they look, or their accent, or the spelling of their name” and explained that “in Arizona today, all that stands between you and a legal nightmare is whether a police officer feels there is a ‘reasonable suspicion’ to inquire about your country of origin.”
The impact of the Supreme Court’s decision will be far-reaching and should be taken as a warning; other states attempting to enact similar anti-immigrant legislation must accept that, in accordance with the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, immigration is a federal matter and comprehensive immigration reform must be enacted by the federal government and not at a local level by individual states. In this time of recession, it makes little sense for these states to spend valuable resources defending such unconstitutional legislation in the courts.