Yesterday, the Supreme Court threw out most of the anti-Latino Arizona immigration law and neutered the rest, which was frankly a surprise to me considering the make-up of this gang. To their credit in this instance they did strike a blow for fairness and this ever elusive thing called justice. Being an African American I have seen and know bigotry firsthand so I think this qualifies me to have an opinion with respect to what this law would do if allowed to stand as the law of the land.
Of course, we now wait for the biggest decision of our lifetime – the healthcare decision. I hope Chief Justice Roberts Jr., who by the way sided with the 5 to 3 majority in immigration law remains sane and takes the position of the liberal Justices on the bench when deciding the healthcare issue. The American people could use his vote when it is rendered and expected to be announced Thursday.
This was a huge victory for justice although they did not eliminate the most notorious part of the Arizona law, which was the requirement that police can check the immigration status of anyone who is detained. This is the part known as the “papers, please” that conjures images of a police-state in my mind that could easily be expanded to include other minorities like us or just us. I can recall there was a time when such laws pertained to black people – they were called Black Codes.
However, it appears that the court had this in mind as it wrote “This opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect”. Which sounds like – we’ll be watching closely. Thankfully most of the less publicized but equally onerous and un-American provisions are now history.
More importantly, the court’s reinforcement of the main tenet was that the federal government has the responsibility for setting immigration policy, not the states. We do not need — and, thanks to this ruling, will not have — 50 sets of laws specifying who gets to live in this country and who doesn’t. This would open the floodgates to bigotry. Like I said, I have seen this before and not too long ago.
This law had another more ominous design, which would have, if sustained, make it a state crime for anyone who failed to have proper immigration papers; in other words, failing to produce the right documents when asked could have subjected a person not just to deportation but to criminal penalties. The court ruled that this was preempted by federal law, which imposes no such sanctions.
The danger here is this as it relates to the so called “papers please law” it gives police broad authority to arrest anyone — without a warrant — suspected of some “public offense” that makes the person liable to deportation. The court recognized, and rightfully so, that this is a license for police to arrest suspected illegal immigrants indiscriminately, based solely on the possibility that they might be here without the proper documents. Keep in mind the “Black Codes”.
As the court noted in striking down this provision, “The result could be unnecessary harassment of some aliens (for instance, a veteran, college student, or someone assisting with a criminal investigation) whom federal officials determine should not be removed.” Need I say this is what African Americans have been saying all along – we call it “racial profiling”.
Thanks to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy who wrote the majority opinion for pointing out something that many who seek to participate in the immigration debate fail to understand: “As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States.” I think he was right to say it’s not a crime for “illegal” immigrants to live and work here without the proper documents. By “here” I mean all 50 states. The United States is one country with one immigration policy, and the Supreme Court means to keep it this way.
In closing, until the healthcare verdict, let me ask you to recall not too long ago this state was the last to recognize Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday as a holiday. Therefore I say, Arizona’s thinking – draconian! VOTE!!! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…