Arizona Ruling Will Be Felt Nationwide

Immigrant rights groups welcomed Monday’s Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s immigration law with measured optimism, calling the decision a victory for undocumented immigrants in all states.

Speaking at a teleconference organized by New America Media and The Opportunity Agenda, lawyers and immigrant rights advocates characterized the ruling as an affirmation that individual states do not have the power to create their own immigration policies.

The court struck down three of the four provisions of Arizona’s law. The judges unanimously upheld the fourth, the so-called Show Me Your Papers provision, but left open the possibility of further legal challenges and declined to overturn the standing injunction blocking Arizona police from immediately enforcing the measure.

The Show Me Your Papers measure, Section 2b of Arizona’s SB 1070 bill, requires police who have stopped an individual for any offence to inquire about their immigration status if they suspect the person to be undocumented.

“This decision is a very significant defeat for Arizona and the handful of states that tried to follow in its footsteps because in very strong terms it explained that states’ attempts to create their own immigration policies have to fail when measured against the constitution,” said Omar Jadwat, Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project who participated in the teleconference.

Jadwat added that the ruling also likely “strengthens the hand” of those continuing to challenge the remaining provision in state and federal courts.

Juhu Thukral, Director of Law and Advocacy for The Opportunity Agenda who also spoke in the teleconference, agreed with Jadwat’s characterization of the ruling and called the decision “largely good news for all of us who are invested in creating common sense solutions to immigration policy.”

The ruling on Arizona’s law sends a strong signal to the five other states that have passed similar measures. The states—Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Indiana and Utah—must now review their own laws and strike down the provisions that do not comply with Monday’s ruling.

“My office will be reviewing today’s decision to determine the full extent of its impact on Alabama’s law and the pending litigation,” said Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange in a press release.

It remains unclear whether or how states with laws similar to the provision upheld by the Supreme Court will proceed.

But immigrant advocacy groups were not the only ones to claim victory from the court’s decision. In a speech following the ruling, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who signed the law reviewed by the court into effect, said that she believed the justices affirmed the most important part of the measure.

“The heart of SB1070 has been proven to be constitutional,” Brewer said and highlighted the fact that Section 2b had “unanimously been vindicated by the highest court in the land.”

The ruling comes at a time when the national appetite for controversial immigration legislature appears to be declining. Russell Pearce, the Arizona Republican State Senator who sponsored the 1070 bill was recalled last November, the first time a state legislature had been subjected to a recall in Arizona.

Peter Spiro, a Law professor at Temple University, said that he believes that other states will likely shy away from introducing similar legislation in the future.

Passing such legislation today “seems hardly worth the effort.” He said in an interview with the Arizona Republic, a Phoenix-based newspaper. “It just results in a lot of headaches and bad image. Why do it now?” he said.

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