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Supreme Court Prepares to Review Arizona’s "Papers, Please" Anti-Immigration Law

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The Supreme Court yesterday decided to review the federal government’s challenge to Arizona’s restrictive immigration law, SB 1070.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund: “We fully expect the Supreme Court to uphold the U.S. Constitution and long-standing court rulings which have held that immigration policy is an area reserved under the Constitution for the federal government, and to rule that Arizona’s state law is preempted by federal law.”

The United States filed suit against Arizona on July 6, 2010, in a case entitled U.S. v. Arizona. The government argued that SB 1070 is preempted by federal law, violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, encroaches on an area constitutionally reserved for the federal government, conflicts with federal immigration laws and federal immigration policy, conflicts with U.S. foreign policy, and impedes the execution of the objectives of Congress.

A related but distinct legal challenge to SB 1070 is still pending in the lower courts and has not yet been considered by the Supreme Court.  This case, Friendly House v. Whiting, was brought by a broad civil rights coalition and argues that if state immigration enforcement laws are allowed to take effect, communities of color will suffer extensive rights violations.

The experiences of residents in Arizona, Alabama, and other states after passage of their “papers, please” immigration laws confirms these concerns.  These states’ reputations have taken a hit as a result.  A July 2011 report from the Center of American Progress on the economic impact of Arizona’s immigration law revealed that “losses have already totaled at least $141 million, including $45 million in hotel and lodging cancellations, and $96 million in lost commercial revenue.”   A separate CAP report on the economic damages incurred by Alabama’s law showed that Alabama farmer, Chad Smith has lost $3000,000 in revenue “because of labor shortages in the wake of HB 65.”

In response, Arizona business leaders pressured Republican state legislators to stop pressing for more anti-immigrant legislation.  Russell Pearce, the architect of the Arizona “papers, please” law, lost an unprecedented recall election due to a number of issues–but his role in promoting SB 1070 was a major factor.  In Alabama, a federal judge’s decision to let parts of the law to be implemented has touched off a humanitarian, civil rights and economic crisis that is reminding many of the state’s ugly role in the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and driving many African American leaders to stand up and say “never again.”  Alabama politicians are already talking about making changes to the law, but it’s clear the law simply isn’t fixable.   The only solution to our broken immigration system is common sense, federal reform.   

“If the Supreme Court allows these and other states to go forward, it will lead to a conflicting patchwork of 50 different immigration laws, something that makes as much sense as having a patchwork of 50 different foreign policies.  The issue of immigration is crying out for federal, comprehensive reform.   

“America values equal treatment before the law for all persons.  If the Supreme Court allows states to criminalize hard working immigrant families who only want a better life for themselves and their families, it will represent a huge setback for the cause of civil rights in this country.  Stopping the odious Arizona anti-immigrant law is not only the right thing to do legally, it’s the right thing to do morally,” concluded Sharry.

America’s Voice Education Fund– Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.