Arizona’s SB 1070: A Civil Rights Fiasco
by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger
On Tuesday, the Department of Justice filed suit against the state of Arizona in an effort to overturn a stringent anti-immigration law passed in April. The move is a breath of fresh air for immigrant rights supporters. Democracy Now! and the Washington Independent have the story.
The suit will take on Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, a law that requires local law enforcement to check an individual’s immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that said individual is undocumented. The law has sparked national outrage and serious concerns that Latinos will be racially profiled by the police. Another provision of SB 1070 requires immigrants to carry papers denoting citizenship at all times while in the state.
Is SB 1070 unconstitutional?
At ColorLines, Daisy Hernandez reports that “the lawsuit, which was filed in a U.S. District Court in Phoenix, argues that it’s against the Constitution for a state to make its own immigration policy” because of “the legal doctrine of ‘preemption,’ which says that federal law trumps state statues.”
The key argument being that “the federal government already works with states to enforce federal immigration law,” so there’s no need for a law like SB 1070 to intervene, according to Hernandez.
A civil rights fiasco
Since April, the Arizona law has served as a rallying point for immigrant rights supporters, who refer to the bill as the “Juan Crow” law. The nickname references the Jim Crow laws that existed prior to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s.
Jessica Pieklo at Care2 notes that the DOJ suit “also contains a civil rights component and argues that the law would lead to law enforcement harassing U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants in efforts to hunt down undocumented workers.”
At New America Media, Valeria Fernández gauges immigrants’ and Arizona residents’ reactions to the suit.
“I really feel that the Justice Department will be on the winning side of history,” said Mary Rose Wilcox, a supervisor for District 5 in Maricopa County, AZ. “I think when justice needs to be served, you should never look at political costs.”
An undocumented immigrant named Griselda told Fernández that she “jumped for joy when she heard the news,” and “Thank God there’s another one in the fight.”
The immigration reform battle moves forward
Last week, President Barack Obama called for Congress to put politics aside and focus on immigration reform as quickly as possible. The speech and suit are fueling demand for comprehensive reform and it’s clear that the issue won’t be going away.
Yet despite the need for reform, there are roadblocks. As Paul Waldman writes for the American Prospect, “It’s true that there is little incentive for politicians to produce comprehensive reform. It’s guaranteed to displease much of the public, while there is a powerful incentive to play on people’s fears and resentments.”
However, there is hope in the organizing that’s being done by immigrant youth. Undocumented immigrant and student organizer Tania Unzueta said in an interview with In These Times that immigrants from across the country are risking deportation and incarceration to come “out of the shadows and into the spotlight.”
As Unzueta explains in the interview, “When you stop being afraid, there’s a whole world of possibilities in terms of how much risk you’re willing to take to fight for what you believe is just.”
Photo used under Creative Commons License via Flickr with thanks to Fibonacci Blue