Supreme Court Strikes Down Most of Arizona’s Immigration Law

Supreme Court

Nebraskans emphasize toxic social and economic outcomes

Today the Supreme Court issued a first ruling on Arizona’s immigration enforcement law. In response, Nebraska Appleseed issued this media release:

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down three of the four provisions of Arizona’s notorious “show me your papers” law, a state-level immigration policy that Nebraska and many other states have already rejected due to its high costs and negative community consequences.

The Court’s decision emphasized that immigration needs to be a single, cohesive federal system – not a confusing patchwork of 50 state immigration systems – and struck down sections 3 (making it a state crime to violate federal immigration law or fail to carry immigration papers), 5(C) (making it a state crime to seek or perform work), and 6 (authorizing warrantless arrests if officers believe an individual has committed a deportable offense).

“We’re really pleased that the Court found most of Arizona’s law unconstitutional and made clear that the remaining ‘show me your papers’ section is still subject to civil rights challenges,” said Darcy Tromanhauser, Director of Nebraska Appleseed’s Immigrant Integration & Civic Participation Program.

Under this first, narrow challenge on the basis of whether federal immigration law trumps state law, the Court did not yet strike down the provision (2B) that requires police to attempt to determine immigration status for any person lawfully stopped, detained, or arrested. Today’s decision is the first case to reach the Supreme Court on Arizona’s law. Other challenges to the law based on civil rights violations are still making their way through the courts.

“While today’s decision highlights the legal problems with the law, states have already turned away from an Arizona-style approach after seeing that the results are socially toxic and economically self-defeating,” said Tromanhauser. “No state has moved forward with similar legislation this year. These laws violate our national values and our national interests. Instead, we need common-sense immigration laws at the federal level that support Nebraska families, businesses, and communities.”

As this summary of news articles and outcomes from Arizona and Alabama shows, Arizona lost $141 million in just the first 7 months after the law passed, business leaders called on the governor to fix the state’s diminished image, Alabama farmers have seen crops rotting in their fields, and Arizona’s universities and businesses have had trouble recruiting due to the state’s damaged reputation.

Consideration of an Arizona-style law in Nebraska in 2010 brought widespread opposition from Nebraska institutions, including police concerned about its negative impact on community policing and public safety, cities, civil rights groups, faith and business groups, and the University of Nebraska.

“In this country, we believe that we should be judged by the content of our character, not by the color of our skin. An Arizona-style law encourages discrimination against people based on nothing more than the way they look, even if they have been American citizens their whole lives,” said Alan Potash, Executive Director of the Anti-Defamation League – Plains States Region.

As a practical matter, the measure would require even people who were born in the U.S. to carry evidence of their citizenship at all times, and would promote unwarranted suspicion of people based on the way they look, including large numbers of U.S. citizens and those legally authorized to live and work in the U.S.

“An Arizona-style ‘show me your papers’ law creates a culture of suspicion,” said Carolina Quezada, Director of Latino Center of the Midlands. “That affects all of us – it’s something that everyone in a community can feel. This is not the type of society that we want to live in.”

“From the perspective of Nebraska cities and towns, an Arizona-style approach would create prolonged litigation costs and liability for cities and police while accomplishing nothing productive,” said Mike Nolan of the League of Nebraska Municipalities.

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