The so-called “papers, please” provision of Arizona's controversial immigration law remains in effect. But U.S. Supreme Court justices warned the state's officials to be careful how they implement the law, said David Leopold, general counsel for the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
As written, the provision, which requires local law enforcement to check the immigration status of person or persons they stop for another reason when officers have a “reasonable suspicion” that that person is in the country illegally, isn't necessarily unconstitutional, the justices wrote. And on its face, communication between local law enforcement and federal officials does not violate the Constitution.
But there could be problems—depending on how SB1070 is enacted.
If local law-enforcement officers delayed someone’s release just to check his or her immigration status, “this would raise constitutional concerns,” the justices wrote.
The Court struck down three of the four provisions. The provisions that did not survive include: the requirement that immigrants carry documentation proving their status and makes not doing so a crime; the right of law enforcement to arrest someone they have probable cause to believe has committed any public offense that makes that person removable from the country; and the provision that makes it a crime for undocumented immigrants to solicit work.
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What’s yet to be decided?
Although the Court did not strike down the “papers, please” provision, the ruling doesn’t stop others from challenging the law as it goes into effect.
In a press conference on Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union promised to do just that, noting that the organization compiled an $8.7 million “war chest” to fight this law and similar laws in other states.
Even though the Court did not strike down the provision, states that pass similar laws could face lawsuits charging racial profiling.
Expect to see this play out in court.
So who won?
This decision was split. As a result, both sides claimed victory and both expressed dismay.
Immigrant activists celebrated the demise of three out of four provisions of the law. But claims that the justices’ ruling left the door open for racial profiling when they allowed the “papers, please” provision to stand came fast and furious from the ACLU, the National Council of La Raza, the National Immigration Law Center, and others.
Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which opposes illegal immigration and advocates for a reduction in legal immigration, called the ruling “an important victory for the people of Arizona and citizens everywhere who want their jobs, tax dollars, and security protected from mass illegal immigration."
But he said it also gave the Obama administration’s position on “prosecutorial discretion” a “warm bear hug.”
Stein disagrees with the policy that allows immigration agents and federal prosecutors to decide not to continue with deportation proceedings against people who they deem are not a threat to the U.S.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed SB1070 into law in 2010 and whose political career has been defined by her position on immigration, called the decision a “victory for the rule of law.”
The president too expressed pleasure at the ruling, although he said that he was concerned about the impact the "papers, please" provision will have.
“Going forward, we must ensure that Arizona law enforcement officials do not enforce this law in a manner that undermines the civil rights of Americans,” according to a written statement from the White House.
For states, the ruling gave little guideance on what they should do regarding future legislation. Whether the "papers, please" provision will stand and can be emulated in other states will be determined by future cases after the provision goes into law.
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All sides agreed that the problem can only be solved by Congress and called for federal immigration reform.
But what they should look like? That’s still up for debate.
“The battle has only just begun,” Stein said.