For all those immigrant-haters in Alabama who have been saying "our anti-immigrant law isn't unconstitutional because the Supreme Court hasn't struck down Arizona's" -- look out. In a 5-3 decision the US Supreme Court just invalidated big chunks of Arizona's SB 1070.
The Supreme Court found that sections 3, 5 and 6 of Arizona's law directly conflict with federal immigration law and are unconstitutional. Mary Bauer, legal director for the SPLC, says:
“Today’s decision is a blow to Arizona’s anti-immigrant law and similar copycat laws that have sprung up in other states. The court’s decision affirms that much of these laws are unconstitutional because they are preempted by federal law and that they have significant concerns about the one provision they allowed to stand.”
That provision is the racist, "show me your papers" provision that opens the door for racial profiling by law enforcement and harassment of anyone who doesn't look like us. Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force was understandably concerned that the Court left that provision alone:
“This ruling strikes down some key provisions of a draconian law that makes people more vulnerable to abuse. SB 1070 and laws like it only serve to divide us by opening the door to racial profiling, infringement of civil rights, and harassment and violence against those seen as ‘different.’ While we are encouraged by parts of today’s decision, the path has been cleared for the most offensive portion of the law – the ‘show me your papers’ provision – to take effect. Nobody should be forced to live in constant fear of having their family torn part, of being separated from their loved ones, while simply trying to go about their daily lives.
The Court left the door open to revisit the constitutionality of Arizona's "show me your papers" provision after it goes into effect.
Read the Court's opinion here.
Justice Scalia was outraged in his dissent, claiming that the Court was going after the sovereignty of individual states.
“We are not talking here about a federal law prohibiting the States from regulating bubble-gum advertising, or even the construction of nuclear plants,” he declared. “We are talking about a federal law going to the core of state sovereignty: the power to exclude.”
Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA, pushed back on Scalia’s argument.
“Scalia has finally jumped the shark,” Winkler told TPM. “He claims to respect the founding fathers, but his dissent channels the opponents of the Constitution. Back then, opponents argued that the Constitution denied states their sovereignty by giving too much power to the federal government, as with immigration. Now Scalia echoes their complaints that states are being denied their sovereignty. States are not sovereign when it comes to powers vested in Congress, such as the authority over immigration and naturalization.”
Yeah, state sovereignty is one of those conservative code words. Kind of like states' rights.
Second Front has reactions from Alabama pols, most of whom are working hard to make lemonade out of this pile of lemons. House Speaker Mike Hubbard managed to work both President Obama and states' rights into his response:
States really are the last line of defense to protect the rights of the people, and never has that been more evident than with President Obama ordering federal agents to stand down on immigration enforcement actions. States have not only the right, but the duty to uphold the rule of law and protect their citizens, especially when the federal government refuses to do so.
They reported that HB56 mastermind Scott Beason "is still reading the ruling, but is surprised SCOTUS considered foreign affairs in its decision." Join the club, Scott. Many of us were surprised when the Alabama Legislature got involved in enforcing the nations borders, too.
What does this mean for Alabama's HB56? According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which called this ruling a "major blow" to anti-immigrant laws, Alabama's HB56 ...
... includes three provisions similar to those considered in the Arizona case: police inquiries into immigration status; criminalizing being present in the state without immigration papers; and criminalizing soliciting work. Several other provisions have no overlap with those considered in the Arizona case, including: requiring inquiries into immigration status of students and their parents;; criminalizing day laborer activities; criminalizing helping undocumented immigrants; criminalizing certain transactions with public officials by undocumented immigrants; and making many contracts unenforceable if they involve undocumented immigrants. All these provisions have been blocked, except the requirement of police to inquire into immigration status. An appeal is pending in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The precise impact of the Arizona decision will be decided by the Eleventh Circuit later this year.
The fight against these cruel self-deportation laws is not over, but the bad guys suffered a significant blow today.