As a Supreme Court Decision on Arizona’s SB 1070 Looms, States Reflect on Rippling Effect Felt Throughout the Nation Since the Law’s Passage in 2010

Supreme CourtWith the U.S. Supreme Court expected to rule on Arizona’s notorious immigration law any day now, states are reflecting on the devastating social and economic effects witnessed in Arizona and Alabama that have caused localities to turn away from the approach.

A federal judge temporarily blocked portions of Arizona’s law, including its “Show me your papers” provision, but the state nonetheless took a serious hit to its reputation and experienced millions of dollars in lost spending and other negative economic effects. The “show me your papers” provision requires Arizona law enforcement to ask for individuals’ immigration status during routine traffic stops. In spite of the provision being blocked, police – at their own discretion — have been found to require people to present their immigration-status papers. Three other provisions related to states’ ability to create their own immigration systems are being considered by the Supreme Court:

  1. creating a state crime for violating federal immigration law or failing to carry immigration documents (these are civil violations under federal law);
  2. making it a state crime for undocumented immigrants to seek or perform work; and
  3. authorizing warrantless arrests of individuals where police have probable cause to believe they have committed a deportable offense.

Only five states have enacted legislation modeled on Arizona’s SB 1070 – Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Indiana, and Utah. Interest slowed after seeing the negative effects on businesses and communities in places like Arizona and Alabama. No state moved forward with Arizona-style legislation this year.

One of the most extreme copycats of the Arizona law is Alabama’s HB 56, signed into law last June. Like Arizona’s SB 1070, Alabama’s HB 56 instructs law enforcement to act upon “reasonable suspicion” during routine traffic stops and to detain someone until Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can determine their residency status. Alabama’s law also penalizes anyone who rents to an undocumented person, prevents undocumented immigrants from receiving state and local public services – which led to national and international criticism for denying clean water to families as well as creating a bureaucratic nightmare where all Alabama residents had to prove immigration status for basic services – and bans enrollment in public colleges.

This law has caused a mass evacuation of Alabama’s workforce, in a state where one in five jobs is connected to agriculture. The argument made by proponents of HB 56 is that Americans would willingly fill the jobs left by undocumented workers. But that has not occurred, leaving Alabama farmers to urge legislators to change the law or see the ruin of their crops and businesses.

Not only has Alabama’s law caused many workers to flee, hurting the state’s largely agricultural-based economy, but it also required the Alabama Department of Education to assess whether students are there legally or not, causing many to leave the schools out of fear before the provision was blocked. Though the law’s sponsors, Senator Scott Beason and Representative Micky Hammon, claim the education of undocumented immigrants is one of the state’s largest costs, the statistics speak otherwise. According to the Census Bureau, less than half of one percent of Alabama’s students is undocumented. Since President Obama announced a new policy last week, young immigrants under 30 who arrived to the US when they were 16 or younger and have lived in the country at least five years can be eligible for a work permit and can receive temporary protection from deportation. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in Alabama.

Earlier this year, the core of Fremont’s anti-immigrant ordinance was struck down. Like Alabama’s law, Fremont’s ordinance would have penalized anyone who rented to undocumented immigrants, a key factor in finding it and others like it unconstitutional. Though most of the ordinance never went into effect, the residual strain is still felt on Fremont’s community. Like Alabama, Fremont’s ordinance has cost the city legal, economic, and social stability.

Through the mobilization of communities and human rights groups, laws like Arizona’s SB 1070 and its copycats will continue to be challenged. While awaiting the Supreme Court decision on Arizona’s SB 1070, learn more by following these links:

http://www.motherjones.com/special-reports/2012/03/immigration-self-deportation
http://neappleseed.org/blog/5743

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