Farmworker Justice Statement on Supreme Court Decision on Arizona Immigration Law

Supreme Court Decision in Arizona Demonstrates Need for Congressional Action on Immigration Policy: Court Strikes Down Several Provisions of Arizona’s Anti-Immigrant Law as Unconstitutional, but Leaves in Place Provision that Inevitably Leads to Racial Profiling

Today’s Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. United States sent a strong message that the regulation of immigration is a federal issue by striking down as unconstitutional several provisions of Arizona’s harsh immigration law, SB 1070.  The Court’s 5-3 decision warns states and cities against creating their own laws to regulate immigration or interfere with the enforcement of federal immigration law.

Unfortunately, the Court ruled that one harmful provision of the law may stand, at least until the law takes effect and its implementation can be examined.   That provision requires law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of someone who they stop or arrest for a different, legitimate purpose if they have a reasonable suspicion that the person is undocumented.   The Court warned that this provision, in its application, may be unconstitutional as well.   As a practical matter, the provision may encourage police officers to detain someone for an alleged state-law traffic infraction or misdemeanor to justify investigating their immigration status and reporting them for deportation.  The Court did acknowledge that the provision may be struck down in the future depending on how it is carried out.

 The Supreme Court’s decision is yet another reminder of the dire need for Congress to enact immigration reform legislation that gives the current undocumented workforce and their families the opportunity to earn legal immigration status.  The Arizona law and others like it create a culture of fear in the immigrant communities where these laws exist.  This fear often serves to prevent undocumented farmworkers, who comprise 50 – 70% of the agricultural labor force, from reporting workplace violations, crimes, and other abuses, as well as accessing services that are available to them.  States and municipal governments should stop wasting resources passing and defending unconstitutional immigration laws that are discriminatory, divisive and bad for businesses and families, and instead should push Congress to enact a federal solution to immigration reform that recognizes the contributions of undocumented farmworkers and other undocumented workers to our society.