Immigration Ruling Could Have Wide Impact
The Supreme Court’s ruling in Arizona v. United States doesn’t just impact people in Arizona. It sets a new constitutional precedent for what actions can be taken by other states with regard to immigration.
After Arizona’s ill-fated S.B. 1070 was passed, other states under Republican-controlled legislatures tried to copy the law for their own states. They were helped in this by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which had supported the legislation on behalf of its private prison management members.
While significant legislative action was undertaken in over a dozen states, five succeeded in passing draconian, Arizona-style anti-immigrant laws. Here’s a look at those five states, and what Monday’s ruling could hold for them.
Alabama’s H.B. 56 went even further than Arizona’s S.B. 1070 in attacking immigrants. Written by Kansas Attorney General and anti-immigration zealot Kris Kobach, the law prohibits undocumented immigrants from receiving any kind of state benefits at the state or local level, prohibits undocumented immigrants from attending publicly-funded colleges, and requires public schools to make a determination as to whether students are in the country legally. The law prohibits landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants, makes hiring undocumented immigrants a crime, and makes the firing or refusal to hire a legal Alabama resident a crime, so long as a company employs an undocumented worker. Additionally, the law includes provisions similar to S.B. 1070 with regard to police detention and employment.
While the law was upheld in large part by a district judge on September 29, 2011, many of the law’s provisions have been thrown into question by the Supreme Court’s ruling. The court struck down provisions in the Arizona law that made it illegal for undocumented immigrants to apply for work.
Alabama House Majority Leader Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, tried to strike a positive note in a statement reported by USA Today, in which he said the “real teeth of Arizona’s law” had survived the court’s ruling. While that is debatable, the court’s ruling seems to put many of H.B. 56′s most draconian provisions in jeoparday; it’s hard to imagine a court saying that individual states cannot make it a crime for undocumented workers to look for a job, but they can make it a crime to rent an apartment to them.
We shouldn’t have to wait long for an answer; the law’s legality had already been appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has already temporarily blocked most provisions of the law. The court had been waiting to make a final ruling until after the Supreme Court’s Arizona ruling.
Georgia’s H.B. 87 has also been appealed to the 11th Circuit, which is considering the measure along with Alabama’s H.B. 56. The law is very similar to Arizona’s S.B. 1070, making it very likely that the 11th Circuit will strike down most of the law. Nevertheless, Republican Gov. Nathan Deal echoed Hammon, saying, “It appears the court has upheld the major thrust of our state’s statute, that states have the right to assist in enforcing federal immigration law.”
One other law that faces an uncertain future is S.B. 458, a law that prohibits undocumented immigrants from receiving in-state tuition at colleges. The Anti-DREAM Act, like the rest of Georgia’s anti-immigration laws, is in legal limbo.
While Indiana might not seem like a hotbed of illegal immigration, save perhaps for some very strong Canadians swimming the length of Lake Michigan, it does have the most important thing required for a state to take action to shut down the borders: a Republican-controlled legislature and governor. Gov. Mitch Daniels signed S.B. 590 into law in 2011, closing down Indiana’s border with…well, Indiana doesn’t border any foreign countries, but still.
While the law as passed was not quite as draconian as the Arizona law that inspired it, two of its provisions, which ban the use of foreign ID cards and would allow police to detain undocumented immigrants, are in jeopardy of being struck down.
Indianapolis immigration attorney Steven L. Tuchman told the Indianapolis Star that the law was “toast,” adding, “From what I read, the Indiana law is not going to survive.”
South Carolina’s anti-immigration laws contain a number of provisions likely to be struck down, including laws requiring immigrants to carry their papers at all times, and laws making it a state offense to transport undocumented aliens.
While S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley said that the court’s ruling was “good news for South Carolina law enforcement,” it was unlikely that most of the provisions of South Carolina’s laws would be upheld. Of course, like many of her counterparts, that was not something Haley was likely to admit.
Utah represents perhaps the most interesting of the states to pass Arizona-style legislation, in that the state also passed some legislation that could be seen as pro-immigration as well as anti-immigration. While the state passed H.B. 497, which would allow for Arizona-style demands for papers, it also passed H.B. 116 and H.B. 469, which created guest-worker programs for undocumented immigrants in the state.
The Justice Department has sued to block all of these measures, under the same legal theory that prompted a challenge to Arizona’s laws — that whether for good or for ill, states should not be making their own individual immigration policies. With the ruling in Arizona, it seems quite possible that all of Utah’s laws, good and bad, could be struck down.
A Long Road Ahead
While the court’s ruling makes it likely that some, if not all, of the worst state laws will be invalidated, there’s no question that the fight against draconian anti-immigrant laws has only begun. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mary Bauer told WHNT, “Today’s decision is a blow to Arizona’s anti-immigrant law and similar copycat laws that have sprung up in other states.” But noting that the court declined to strike down part of Arizona’s law, she added, “The one thing that is clear from today’s ruling is that the fight against these hateful anti-immigrant laws are far from over.”
Image Credit: Jim Shen