Supreme Court on Arizona immigration law: Living undocumented is not a crime


I’ve been reading lots of commentary on the June 25 U.S. Supreme Court decision on Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070 law. It’s pretty clear that the court was solidly against the law, as exemplified by the majority opinion that, “As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States.”

The court struck down three of the provisions of SB 1070 and left one in place, for now. (See ACLU graphic, below.)

The provision left in place is the “show me your papers” provision that allows law enforcement officials to ask for proof of immigration status in certain circumstances. The court noted that this provision has not yet been put into effect, so they could not tell yet whether it would prove to be in actual practice a racially discriminatory violation of civil rights. 

As Javier Morillo Alicea observed in his Thug in Pastels blog:

The Court ruled that the Arizona legislature had prettied up the SB1070 law enough that we could not yet prove that it would lead to racial profiling. And let us not forget that racial profiling was precisely the intention of the bill as originally written.

The court specifically left open the possibility of future challenges: “This opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect.”

Locally, immigration attorney John Keller, director of the Immigrant Law Center of MInnesota, characterized the decision as “very positive” and said it reaffirmed the primacy of the federal government in the area of immigration law and enforcement.

“On the police provision,” he said, “I think it’s very important for the public to understand that the court saw the injunction of it as premature [because this part of the law had not yet been enforced.] … It’s not really a victory [for those who support the law]. It’s ‘We’ll judge that when we have a chance to judge that, as it’s applied.’ They do put in a warning about [this part of the law] — they almost predict that there will be challenges and say that there should be great caution and care.”

Keller added that, from a Minnesota perspective, this should be a clear sign that the legislature should be wary of passing any immigration-related legislation, because when they do, they get it wrong and then spend taxpayer money to defend the bad decision in court. 

Marc Prokosch,  chair of the MN-Dakotas chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), agreed that the ruling was “a pretty clear win” for opponents of Arizona’s SB 1070. Prokosch recalled that last year, “There was a version introduced in the Minnesota legislature and it pretty much didn’t go anywhere. I think this means it won’t be brought up in the future.”


Want to see this in larger format? Just click on the image.