Supreme Court Overturns SB 1070, Arizona’s Immigration Law

In a huge victory for immigration advocates, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 today that SB 1070, Arizona’s strict immigration law passed in 2010, is preempted by federal law and is therefore unconstitutional.  In short, Justice Kennedy, writing the opinion for the 5 justices in the majority, said that Arizona had stepped too far into federal territory by trying to regulate immigration law, which is usually under the jurisdiction of the federal government. 

The Court struck down three major provisions of the law and preserved one provision.  The three that were struck down are:

– Section 3 – which made it a state misdemeanor for an undocumented person to not comply with federal alien registration requirements;

– Section 5(c) – which made it a state misdemeanor for an undocumeneted person to find a job in Arizona; and 

– Section 6 – which authorized state and local police to arrest someone without a warrant if that person was suspected of “any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States.” 

The Court did uphold the section of that law (2(B)) that allows police to ask a person for his or her documentation, if the police have stopped, detained, or arrested a person. Arizona courts are still deciding how that portion of the law should be implemented and the Supreme Court cautioned the State that this provision should be used very carefully. Appropriate forms of documentation that a person can show and that the police must accept include a state license or ID.  

The Supreme Court has still not released its most controversial opinion of this term – a decision on the health care law is expected on Thursday of this week. 

Updated at 2:34 on 6/25/12 to add:

LGBT, HIV Advocates Respond to Mixed Ruling on Arizona’s Anti-Immigrant Law

“Today’s mixed ruling strikes down important parts of SB 1070, but leaves the ‘show-me-your-papers’ provision in place – for now. The court left the door open for advocates to challenge this bad part of the law by showing that it discriminates and harms people – that is the next important step.”

(New York, June 25, 2012) – In a mixed ruling, the Supreme Court today struck down key parts of SB 1070, Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant law. The nation’s leading organizations advocating on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population and people living with HIV/AIDS responded to the ruling and expressed support for comprehensive immigration reform that includes LGBT people and their families.

The “show-me-your-papers” provision in SB 1070 is clearly discriminatory but unfortunately was not struck down.  LGBT immigrants and LGBT people of color remain particularly vulnerable because this provision in SB 1070 requires police to stop and question people based on their appearance. The LGBT community knows all too well how easily people who are perceived to “look different” or “act different” can be singled out for harassment and persecution.  The law particularly threatens LGBT people of color and LGBT immigrants, many of whom already experience heightened hostility, harassment, and even violence based on their appearance, behavior, dress, and other characteristics. This wrongful treatment often occurs at the hands of local officials who lack a basic understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression diversity.

SB 1070, and the copycat laws it has spawned in other states, exacerbate the fear and distrust that dissuade many LGBT immigrants and LGBT people of color from seeking protection from – or offering to assist – law-enforcement officials. While leaving the “show me your papers” provision in effect is a setback for the cause of civil rights in America, the court left the door open for advocates to challenge this bad part of the law by showing that it discriminates and harms people.  Along with other advocates devoted to immigrant rights and racial justice, we will fight to protect basic civil rights and we won’t stop until we win respect, dignity and equal treatment under the law for everyone.

As the Supreme Court recognized in its majority decision today: “Immigration policy shapes the destiny of the Nation,” and the “history of the United States is in part made of the stories, talents, and lasting contributions of those who crossed oceans and deserts to come here.” The Court has made clear that states “may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.”  For example, Arizona cannot create its own system for immigration registration, impose criminal penalties on immigrants who are seeking work, or make warrantless arrests of immigrants based on possibility of removability.  This recognition is an important victory for people and communities across the United States.  Instead of targeting and criminalizing immigrants and other marginalized groups, communities should be enacting and implementing forward-looking, progressive measures that integrate, protect and ensure equality for all people, including immigrants.  

Today’s mixed ruling strikes down key parts of a bad law. But the fact remains that our nation’s immigration system is broken, and we need comprehensive immigration reform that is fair to everyone, and is inclusive of LGBT immigrants and their families. We will work with our allies in the immigrant rights community to make this reform a reality, and call on Congress to move swiftly to correct the flaws riddling the present immigration system and provide a path to legalization for the nation’s undocumented immigrants. 

List of Organizations:

Lambda Legal 
LGBT Progress at the Center for American Progress 
AFL-CIO – Pride at Work
Atticus Circle 
Center Link: The Community of LGBT Centers 
Consortium of Higher Education Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Professionals 
Equality Federation 
Family Equality Council 
Freedom to Marry
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) 
Gay & Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA)
Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) 
HIV Law Project 
Human Rights Campaign 
Immigration Equality 
International Federation of Black Prides, Inc. 
Latino Commission on AIDS 
PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
The National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) 
National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) 
National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)
National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) 
National Coalition for LGBT Health 
National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce 
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates 
Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF)