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Will the Supreme Court Hide Behind Technical Legal Arguments to Legalize Harassment and Discrimination?

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Oral argument of Arizona “show me your papers law” steers clear of real world consequences

Today the Supreme Court heard the case Arizona v. United States, the federal government’s challenge to Arizona’s anti-immigration law, SB 1070.  The specific legal question at issue is whether four provisions of SB 1070 are pre-empted by the U.S. Constitution, which would mean that states such as Arizona cannot intrude on an area of federal responsibility without explicit authorization.  Clearly, Chief Justice Roberts wanted to keep the argument narrow and focused.  Before Solicitor General Donald Verrilli was able to present his argument, Chief Justice Roberts stated, “this case is not about ethnic profiling.”

The following is a statement from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:

“When someone says ‘it’s not about the money’ it’s usually safe to conclude it is about the money.  When Chief Justice Roberts said ‘this isn’t about ethnic profiling’ it’s safe to conclude it is about ethnic profiling.  The fact is that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Arizona ‘show me your papers’ law, it will effectively legalize harassment and discrimination against people because of the way they look or the way they speak.  How can the Supreme Court render its judgment without taking those real world consequences into account?

“While the proceedings inside the court were technical and divorced from the real world consequences of the law, outside the court more than 1,000 people rallied in support of immigrant families and fair and just immigration reform.  Civil rights and faith leaders called on the Court to do the right thing and keep this discriminatory law from infecting Arizona and other states.  There was a 48-hour vigil and a Jericho march.  There were chants and songs, testimonies, laughter and tears—with people from across the country speaking out for policies that protect rather than separate families and protect rather than undermine the basic rights of all.

“Meanwhile, a tiny group of angry Arizona law defenders turned out to greet their heroes Russell Pearce, the former state legislator who was recalled in part because of his obsession with purging his state of Latino immigrants, and Kris Kobach, the author of the Arizona and Alabama laws and immigration advisor to Mitt Romney.

“The Court will issue its ruling in June.  If the law is prevented from taking effect, we’ll declare victory but we won’t rest, because the immigration system will remain broken and in need of federal reform.  If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Arizona on the technical pre-emption issue, we will continue to fight it in the courts and the statehouses in hopes of staving off the kind of humanitarian and civil rights crisis we see on the ground in Alabama, the only state with an Arizona-style law currently in effect.

“What would be the political effect of a ruling in favor of Arizona by the Supreme Court?  A June Supreme Court decision that gives a green light to racial profiling and discrimination will move many more Latinos to vote in November.  Voting will become a necessary act of self-defense.”

Additional Resources:

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