The Supreme Court's decision to both uphold and strike down Arizona’s controversial immigration law known as SB1070 reflects a fissure among Americans that no mid-June decision by the justices will resolve.
Immigration, the border, and documentation will continue to be a part of the national conversation, the political stage, and the courts for some time to come.
In April, the United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll found that a majority of Americans supported key elements of Arizona’s illegal-immigration law. A majority also rejected the option of deporting the 11 million immigrants here illegally. An even larger percentage believed that young people brought to the U.S. illegally should be able to stay if they attend college or join the military.
And this month, a poll by the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan Washington think tank, found that 58 percent of Americans approve of the law, compared with 38 percent who oppose. The opinion was divided along racial and ethnic lines: 75 percent of Hispanics opposed, as did 56 percent of blacks. The majority, 69 percent, of whites supported the law.
In a recent column, National Journal polticial director Ronald Brownstein points out traits common to all Americans: We’re committed to enforcing the rule of law. But we’re also a pragmatic and humane bunch.
We apparently also love a debate.
Earlier this month, the president announced that the administration would halt the deportations of certain young people in the country illegally, sparking a fierce and, at times, partisan discussion over what should be done about the estimated 11 million people here illegally.
The debate reached a fever pitch on Monday morning when the Supreme Court ruled on SB1070.
About 50,000 people signed in to SCOTUSblog to watch reporters inside the Court blog live. By noon, hashtags #SB1070, #SCOTUS, and #Arizona dominated Twitter.
Hundreds filled out an informal poll on the Arizona Republic’s website: by 7 p.m. ET, 36.4 percent of those who responded thought that today’s winners were Arizona residents. The next largest share, 33.8 percent, said nobody won.
Reactions in the social-media universe were also mixed.
“How sad SB1070 section 2B permits the police act as immigration agents was approved, sad racism against Hispanics,” @OMARSANCHEZOMI tweeted in Spanish.
SB1070 supporters let their voices be heard too.
"SOOOO SICK of hearing about how 'controversial' SB 1070. It's about asking for freaking i.d. people," tweeted @KatiePavlich.
It seemed everyone weighed in, many simultaneously claiming victory and expressing reservations about the ruling: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, President Obama, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the immigrant-rights group the National Council of La Raza, the American Civil Liberties Union, restrictionist advocacy and grassroots organizing groups the Federation for American Immigration Reform and NumbersUSA—even the Mexican government.
(Read related story here.)
Spanish-language media covered the story exhaustively. Telemundo posted a video, explaining to immigrants what to do if they are detained.
By 5:30 p.m. ET on Monday, 734 people had commented on Univision’s explanation of the ruling.
Concerns about the laws were not restricted to the Hispanic community.
Mee Moua, executive director for the Asian American Justice Center, applauded the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn several provisions within SB1070.
But while she felt that the ruling based on federal preemption was an appropriate decision, she maintained that the AAJC was “concerned about the application of the ‘show me papers’ provision,” adding, “I think it’s very unclear what reasonable suspicion translates into.”
“In my mind, based on the language that’s in the decision, is now being a person of color or speaking English with an accent, is that now similar to slurred speech or alcohol on the breath?”
Moua later added, “It’s not just about being Latino but it is a concern to us for the community of color as a whole.”
Americans were not the only ones trying to figure out what the ruling meant for their communities, friends, and families. The extensive international coverage and the reach of social media spread the news quickly beyond our borders—particularly the southern border.
The decision was a top story on the website of Mexican paper El Universal, despite a drug-related shooting at Mexico City’s major international airport that killed three.
The headline of the story, which outlined the Mexican government's concerns that the Supreme Court's decision not to strike down the law in totality could lead to a violation of civil rights, read: “Mexico Laments Partial Ruling on Arizona Law.”
People from across Latin America joined in the debate as newspapers and websites picked up the story.
Although Americans often think of Latinos or Hispanics as a single group, the debate sparked by the SB1070 coverage in Honduras’ El Heraldo reflected the variety of opinions regarding the law among Latinos and a fissure among some from different Central and South American countries.
“The laws could be more strict,” one commenter wrote. “This is because of the great number of Mexicans committing all types of crimes.... The gringos are furious and with good reason.”
Not everyone on the thread agreed.