Posted by on June 25, 2012 in Blog

In a long-awaited ruling, the Supreme Court today upheld one of the most intrusive provisions of the controversial immigration law SB 1070. The provision requires police officers to check on the immigration status of anyone they stop or suspect of being in the country illegally. Ever since the law’s implementation by Arizona’s Republican governor Jan Brewer back in 2010, the controversial measure has been the focus of a quarrel between the state and the Obama Administration which contends that only the Federal Government has the right to create and enforce immigration laws. Immigration and civil rights activists have also opposed SB 1070, arguing that it sanctions racial profiling in law enforcement. Fortunately, most of the provisions of the law were struck down by the Supreme Court including one that would essentially allow police officers to arrest people they suspected of being in the country illegally without a warrant. But advocates still worry that the law will damage the relationship between law enforcement and the immigrant community, and could result in a spike in unreported crimes by immigrants who fear that they will be deported for calling the police.

Though many of the provisions were declared unconstitutional, Governor Jan Brewer declared success in a statement today, proclaiming:

Today's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is a victory for the rule of law. It is also a victory for the 10th Amendment and all Americans who believe in the inherent right and responsibility of states to defend their citizens. After more than two years of legal challenges, the heart of SB 1070 can now be implemented in accordance with the U.S. Constitution.

Gov. Brewer is conscious of the fact that despite this win today, her immigration law will be subjected to more intense scrutiny in the future, and that immigration and legal advocates will look to prove the law is being enforced improperly. In the closing sentences of her remarks, she urged law enforcement officials to walk a fine line between enforcing the law and providing advocates with a chance to decry profiling and wrongful implementation: 

Of course, today's ruling does not mark the end of our journey. It can be expected that legal challenges to SB 1070 and the State of Arizona will continue. Our critics are already preparing new litigation tactics in response to their loss at the Supreme Court, and undoubtedly will allege inequities in the implementation of the law. As I said two years ago on the day I signed SB 1070 into law, "We cannot give them that chance. We must use this new tool wisely, and fight for our safety with the honor Arizona deserves."

The decision today is a tough loss in legal efforts to completley strike down SB 1070, but the questions the law poses about our society and the need for comprehensive immigration reform remain unanswered. The legal battle may have codified Arizona’s immigration system, but the deciding factor which will weigh on the nation’s conscience going forward as we consider what to do about immigration reform will not be the legality of current laws in place, but whether we as a nation believe that they are right.

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