Supreme Court Flooded with Briefs Opposing Arizona's Draconian Anti-Immigrant Law
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Proponents of Arizona SB 1070 often insist that the infamous immigration law enjoys considerable public support. Yet even if such claims are correct, one would hardly know it from the flood of briefs filed at the Supreme Court this week opposing the measure. Unlike the monolithic set of briefs filed last month in support of SB 1070, the briefs opposing the law were submitted by a strikingly broad range of parties, from commissioners of the former INS, to more than 40 cities and counties, to a group of law enforcement officials that includes an Arizona sheriff whose county shares a border with Mexico.
In total, outside parties filed more than 20 briefs asking the Court to uphold an injunction against four major provisions of the Arizona immigration law. In contrast to the briefs filed in support of SB 1070, which were predominantly submitted by conservative lawmakers and organizations, briefs opposing the measures were filed by a wide-ranging collection of individuals, organizations, and local, state, and foreign governments (click here for the full list). For example:
- Sixteen current and former chief law enforcement officers filed a brief opposing SB 1070, including the former Phoenix police chief and the sheriff of Pima County, Arizona, which shares a longer border with Mexico than any other county in the state. By contrast, only two law enforcement officials joined briefs supporting SB 1070, including Sheriff Joe Arpaio (whose department was recently found by the Justice Department to have engaged in systemic racial profiling).
- One brief filed in opposition to SB 1070 was joined by a former Secretary of State (Madeline Albright), a former Secretary of Defense (William Cohen), and two former ambassadors to the United Nations (Albright and John Negroponte). Another brief was submitted on behalf of two former commissioners of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (Doris Meissner and James Ziglar). By contrast, no member of any prior federal administration joined a brief supporting SB 1070.
- Eleven states, with a combined population of nearly 100 million, submitted a brief opposing SB 1070, including California, New York and Illinois. More than 40 cities and counties also filed a brief opposing the law, three of which are located in Arizona (Tucson, Flagstaff and San Luis).
- A brief filed on behalf of 68 pro-immigrant members of Congress was joined by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other high-ranking members of the House Democratic leadership. By contrast, no member of the House Republican leadership signed a pro-SB 1070 brief filed on behalf of fifty conservative lawmakers.
- The government of Mexico filed a brief opposing SB 1070 that was joined by 16 other Latin American countries.
- Finally, a dozen briefs were filed on behalf of more than 50 national organizations from across the ideological spectrum, including the ACLU, the AFL-CIO, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Of course, as close followers of the Court know, outside parties often file briefs at the Supreme Court simply to draw the justices’ attention to the number of groups that support or oppose a law. (When asked whether he read briefs filed by outside parties, former Justice John Paul Stevens reportedly said, “I always read the covers.”) Indeed, even if the justices do not read a word of the briefs opposing SB 1070—which add to the many reasons set forth in the Obama administration’s brief why the injunction should be upheld—they will have difficulty ignoring the wide array of parties opposing the law.
As importantly, the range of outside parties asking the justices to uphold the injunction demonstrates that opposition to SB 1070 is far broader than its proponents care to admit. Public opinion polls simply cannot account for the types of problems that will occur if Arizona-type laws take effect—whether from a fiscal, foreign relations, or law enforcement standpoint. Given the sheer number of parties opposing SB 1070, the verdict is already in: states that enact copycat laws will alienate far more individuals than legislators may realize.