A Supreme Court decision overturning most provisions of Arizona's
controversial immigration law leaves the door open for statutes that require
police to check the legal status of people they stop.
The Supreme Court struck down three major parts of the Arizona law that will deter attempts to duplicate those measures in other states like Texas. But the court left in place a key part of the Arizona law -- the "show me your papers" provision -- that could energize efforts to outlaw so-called sanctuary cities, a legislative priority for Texas Gov. Rick Perry that failed to pass last year.
The Supreme Court's ruling affirms the state's right to ban sanctuary cities in Texas, Perry wrote on his Twitter account late Monday afternoon, saying he will "again fight to pass this important bill next session." But immigrant advocates and Rio Grande Valley state legislators opposed to the measure say they are prepared for narrowly crafted laws that target the provision the Supreme Court upheld.
State Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said the Supreme Court's ruling will fuel efforts to pass sanctuary cities when the Legislature convenes in January. But Hinojosa maintained his stance that sanctuary cities will lead to racial profiling and goes too far by allowing police to investigate immigration status for people stopped on routine traffic violations rather than those arrested for crimes.
"We already have a statute in place for law enforcement to check the status of a person after they are arrested," said Hinojosa, who gutted the sanctuary cities bill using a legislative maneuver in the waning days of 2011's regular legislative session. "They shouldn't be able to stop a person on a pretext of speeding or a broken headlight and then ask them to provide proof of legal residency."
The court's ruling brought mixed responses from civil rights and immigrant advocacy groups in South Texas.
The Supreme Court struck down three major provisions that require all immigrants to obtain or carry immigration registration papers; make it a state criminal offense for an illegal immigrant to seek work or hold a job; and allow police to arrest suspected illegal immigrants without warrants. On the other hand, the court left in the "show me your papers" provision that is similar to Texas' sanctuary cities proposal.
Although legislators introduced a flurry of anti-illegal immigration bills in the 2011 legislative session, none had more momentum than sanctuary cities, the proposal that prohibits local governments from stopping their law enforcement officers from enforcing federal immigration laws. While supporters said the bill gives law enforcement the authority they need to enforce all of the nation's laws, its critics said it leads to racial profiling.
"The truth is 'show me your papers' laws harm citizens and noncitizens alike," said Krystal Gomez, the advocacy and policy council for the ACLU of Texas in Brownsville. "It's impossible to enforce these laws without racial profiling as people will be targeted and detained based on how they look or sound."
In the Supreme Court's majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy -- the court's swing vote -- distinguished the "show me your papers" provision from the Arizona law's other parts by saying consultation between local and federal authorities is already part of the immigration system.
Kennedy pointed to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's support center that assisted local and state police in checking a person's legal status more than 1 million times in 2009. That support center is part of ICE's Secure Communities program that checks the immigration status of people booked into jail.
Hidalgo County was one of the first jurisdictions to implement the screening program that electronically compares the fingerprints of every new inmate against federal criminal databases and immigration records maintained by the Department of Homeland Security. Secure Communities' supporters say it draws a distinction between criminal illegal immigrants and those who are simply here to live or work.
But a recurrent response to the Supreme Court's ruling was to criticize the federal government's inaction on immigration issues.
Perry said Arizona was responding to "the absence of federal action on immigration enforcement (that) directly spoils the integrity of our nation's laws." State Rep. Sergio Munoz, D-Mercedes, said the federal government's inaction has left open a push for "extremely biased types of legislation" that lead to racial profiling.
And John Michael Torres, a spokesman for immigrant advocacy group La Union del Pueblo Entero, said people who support Arizona-style laws are "frustrated with the inability of federal legislators to pass immigration reform."
"What we know is that the real solution is comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level," Torres said. "These types of piecemeal legislative solutions are only making the situation worse, not correcting it."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Most Popular Stories
- Ex-Mobster to Bulger: Just Say Sorry
- Google Stock Split Ahead
- Guns Are Hot in California
- OSH Selling Most of Its Stores to Lowe's
- El Paso Symposium Offers Help to Startups
- MillerCoors Taps New Hispanic Ad Agency
- First Person Cured of AIDS Virus Wants to Help Others
- Small Businesses Hiring, but Worry About Expense
- Honda Says Sorry About the Lack of Electric Fits
- LULAC Convention Starts With Focus on LGBT Youth