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Supreme Court Decision – Arizona’s SB 1070

Supreme Court Decision – Arizona’s SB 1070

Prepared by Richard Sandoval

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down most provisions of Arizona’s controversial immigration law today. But the 5-3 ruling upheld SB 1070’s provision permitting police to check immigration status of anyone they detain or arrest if there is “reasonable suspicion” that an individual is in the United States illegally.

I spoke with Karthick Ramakrishnan associate professor of political science at the University of California, Riverside and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C..  Mr. Ramakrishnan pointed out the Delegation of Immigration Authority Section 287(g) Immigration and Nationality Act signed in 1996  allows a state and local law enforcement entity to enter into a partnership with ICE, under a joint Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).  He stated “The ruling could open the door for other states to begin their own enforcement polices.” In addition the ruling could go on to hurt the tourism industry as well given that visitors could be stopped and questioned about their status based upon “reasonable suspicion.”

Section 287(g) Immigration and Nationality Act, Full Text.  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the largest investigative agency in the Department of Homeland Security, enforces federal immigration laws as part of its homeland security mission. ICE works closely with federal, state and local law enforcement partners in this mission.

The 287(g) program, one of ICE’s top partnership initiatives, allows a state and local law enforcement entity to enter into a partnership with ICE, under a joint Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). The state or local entity receives delegated authority for immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions.

Here is a link to more of Karthick Ramakrishnan research.

Here are the comments and concerns from elected officials.

Statement by the President on the Supreme Court’s Ruling on Arizona v. the United States

I am pleased that the Supreme Court has struck down key provisions of Arizona’s immigration law.  What this decision makes unmistakably clear is that Congress must act on comprehensive immigration reform.  A patchwork  of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system – it’s part of the problem.

At the same time, I remain concerned about the practical impact of the remaining provision of the Arizona law that requires local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of anyone they even suspect to be here illegally.  I agree with the Court that individuals cannot be detained solely to verify their immigration status.  No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like.  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, as the Court’s decision recognizes.  Furthermore, we will continue to enforce our immigration laws by focusing on our most important priorities like border security and criminals who endanger our communities, and not, for example, students who earn their education – which is why the Department of Homeland Security announced earlier this month that it will lift the shadow of deportation from young people who were brought to the United States as children through no fault of their own.

I will work with anyone in Congress who’s willing to make progress on comprehensive immigration reform that addresses our economic needs and security needs, and upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.  And in the meantime, we will continue to use every federal resource to protect the safety and civil rights of all Americans, and treat all our people with dignity and respect. We can solve these challenges not in spite of our most cherished values – but because of them.  What makes us American is not a question of what we look like or what our names are.  What makes us American is our shared belief in the enduring promise of this country – and our shared responsibility to leave it more generous and more hopeful than we found it.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued the following statement after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down three out of the four provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law.


“The Supreme Court was right to strike down the vast majority of the Arizona law. With three out of the four provisions being struck down, the ruling shows that the Obama administration was right to challenge this law, which was not just ill-advised but also unconstitutional.

“I am greatly concerned that the provision putting American citizens in danger of being detained by police unless they carry their immigration papers at all times will lead to a system of racial profiling. This is a strong reminder that ultimately, the responsibility for fixing our nation’s broken immigration system lies with Congress. President Obama’s decision to defer deportation of young people brought here through no fault of their own was necessary precisely because Republicans have so far refused to work with Democrats on forging common-sense solutions to our immigration challenge that are fair, tough and practical. Immigration reform should continue securing our borders; punish unscrupulous employers who exploit immigrants and undercut American wages; pass the DREAM Act; and require the 11 million who are undocumented to register with the government, learn English, pay fines, pay taxes and go to the end of the line to legalize their status.

“Looking ahead to the immigration debate, it is disturbing that Mitt Romney called the unconstitutional Arizona law a ‘model’ for immigration reform. Laws that legalize discrimination are not compatible with our nation’s ideals and traditions of equal rights, and the idea that such an unconstitutional law should serve as a ‘model’ for national reform is far outside the American mainstream.”


Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (CA-47), senior member of the Committee on Homeland Security, today released the following statement in response to news the Supreme Court of the United States has struck down most of Arizona’s controversial law, SB 1070.

“This ruling by the Supreme Court to strike down large portions of SB 1070 confirms what I have always maintained – that immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility. This is a victory and vindication that state and local municipalities simply do not have the authority to set the law on immigration matters.

“However, I am deeply disappointed the Court upheld the discriminatory “show me your papers” provision of SB 1070. I am especially concerned for the impact of this law on citizens who are here legally. It is likely they will be singled out and will face harassment simply for looking like an immigrant. We are a nation of immigrants and I fear this provision will be impossible to enforce fairly and even handedly, in a manner that accurately reflects our American values. As a senior member of the Committee on Homeland Security, I will be alert to this situation and will watch for the even implementation of this law.

“The discussions surrounding SB 1070 certainly illustrate the need to move forward with comprehensive immigration reform on the federal level. I call on my colleagues to work in a bipartisan fashion on long term improvements to our immigration system, for our families and for our economy.”

Melinda Guzman, General Counsel, California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and former General Counsel of US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

“Today’s decision makes clear that immigration policy is a federal mandate and as such should be developed by federal immigration agencies. However, the Supreme Court allows local/state enforcement agencies to detain individuals based upon “reasonable suspicion” of immigration status. This portion of the decision is troubling as it invites additional states to attempt to create their own “enforcement” laws, and this portion of the law invites the potential for inconsistency in the laws to enforce immigration laws as varying from state to state. Overall, although this decision is hailed for confirming the federal government’s role in immigration policy, the decision invites new state laws to “enforce” immigration laws which threaten to create inconsistent laws that threaten the constitutional rights of all.”

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Statement on Supreme Court’s Ruling on Arizona Immigration Law

“I am pleased with the Court’s decision, which strikes down some of the most egregious components of Arizona’s misguided law. It also signals potentially significant constitutional concerns with the law’s mandate on local police officers to act as enforcers of immigration law. As a career prosecutor and California’s chief law enforcement officer, my belief has always been that public safety requires trust and cooperation between law enforcement and the communities we serve. I believe today’s decision is an important step forward in setting aside policies that divide law enforcement from the communities we serve.”

Feinstein Statement on Supreme Court’s Arizona Immigration Decision

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the following statement after the Supreme Court overturned the majority of the Arizona immigration law:

“In overturning much of Arizona’s misguided immigration law, the Supreme Court sent a strong message today that immigration enforcement is the responsibility of Congress, not the individual states. Border protection and immigration enforcement have been and will continue to be the legal preserve of the federal government.

“I remain concerned that the sole remaining provision—the requirement that police check the immigration status of a person they’ve otherwise stopped or arrested—raises serious constitutional concerns that will result in civil rights violations against citizens and immigrants alike. But it is important to note that while the court did not strike down this provision at this time, it made clear that Arizona must be very careful how it enforces this provision or it, too, will be overturned.”

“Washington has failed to fix our broken immigration system. I am hopeful that the court’s decision moves Congress to finally take action in a bipartisan manner to bring about responsible, comprehensive reform.”

Statement by Attorney General Eric Holder On The Supreme Court’s Ruling on Arizona v. The United States

“I welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down major provisions of Arizona’s S.B. 1070 on federal preemption grounds. Today’s ruling appropriately bars the State of Arizona from effectively criminalizing unlawful status in the state and confirms the federal government’s exclusive authority to regulate in the area of immigration.

While I am pleased the Court confirmed the serious constitutional questions the government raised regarding Section 2, I remain concerned about the impact of Section 2, which requires law enforcement officials to verify the immigration status of any person lawfully stopped or detained when they have reason to suspect that the person is here unlawfully. As the Court itself recognized, Section 2 is not a license to engage in racial profiling and I want to assure communities around this country that the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously enforce federal prohibitions against racial and ethnic discrimination. We will closely monitor the impact of S.B. 1070 to ensure compliance with federal immigration law and with applicable civil rights laws, including ensuring that law enforcement agencies and others do not implement the law in a manner that has the purpose or effect of discriminating against the Latino or any other community.

We will also work to ensure that the verification provision does not divert police officers away from traditional law enforcement efforts in order to enforce federal immigration law, potentially impairing local policing efforts and discouraging crime victims, including children of non-citizens, victims of domestic violence, and asylum seekers, from reporting abuses and crimes out of fear of detention or deportation. We will continue to use very federal resource to protect the safety and civil rights of all Americans.”

Statement by Secretary Napolitano on the Supreme Court’s Ruling on Arizona v. The United States.

“I am pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed that state laws cannot dictate the federal government’s immigration enforcement policies or priorities. DHS remains focused on enhancing public safety and the integrity of our border by prioritizing enforcement resources on those who are in the country unlawfully and committing crimes, those who have repeatedly violated our immigration laws, and those who recently crossed our borders illegally. The Court’s decision not to strike down Section Two at this time will make DHS’ work more challenging. Accordingly, DHS will implement operational enhancements to its programs in Arizona to ensure that the agency can remain focused on its priorities. Over the past three and half years, this Administration has dedicated unprecedented resources to secure the border and to enforcing our nation’s immigration laws in a firm and reasonable fashion. We continue to urge Congress to pass comprehensive reform because nothing short of a comprehensive solution will resolve the current patchwork of immigration laws. Finally, it is important to note that today’s Supreme Court decision will not impact the memorandum I issued on June 15th related to prosecutorial discretion eligibility for productive members of society who were brought to the United States as children.”


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