San José, CA - On June 25 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against most of the parts of Arizona’s SB1070, which had ignited nationwide protests against the anti-immigrant law. But at the same time the court upheld part of the law that would allow for expanding federal and local joint efforts to deport more undocumented people.
The court struck down the part of SB1070 that made it a crime to be an undocumented immigrant in Arizona, saying that, according to federal law, not having legal authorization to live in the United States is a civil offense (like a traffic ticket), not a crime. The court also overturned the part of the law that made it a crime to work without legal authorization, again noting, while it is a crime for employers to knowingly hire the undocumented, it is not a crime for the undocumented to work. Finally, the Supreme Court ruled against the part of SB1070 that said that state and local police could stop and detain people on suspicion of being undocumented, saying that this was up to the federal government, not state and local officials.
However, the Supreme Court let stand the part of SB1070 that has police check the immigration status of anyone that they stop for other reasons. Right now almost all local police have to check the immigration status of anyone that they arrest under the federal ‘Secure Communities’ program, popularly known as the poli/migra. This has led to the deportations of thousands of undocumented people who were never convicted of any crime. The Supreme Court ruling opens the door for more local communities to pass similar laws to Arizona, which could lead to more deportations and the harassment by local police of people who they think might be undocumented.
Without the massive protests against SB1070 in 2010 when the law passed, the court ruling could have been worse. However, it is still a step back from before the passage of the law, in that it allows for a greater role for local police to stop people and check their immigration status. As we know, local police now target poor and working-class Mexicano/Chicano communities with checkpoints, racist patrols and brutality. The Supreme Court decision opens the door wider to more racial profiling by police. This shows that the struggle for equality and legalization for the undocumented cannot be left in the hands of the federal government or their courts, but needs a militant and broad mass movement for victory.