In striking down three of the four challenged provisions in Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, today’s Supreme Court decision sends an important message that states wanting to act as immigration enforcement officers face severe constitutional obstacles in doing so. For those of us concerned about racial profiling in the state, the decision provides further reason to enact strong legislation to keep local police out of the immigration business.
Although the court did not immediately rule unconstitutional one of the very problematic provisions of the Arizona law – the so-called “show me your papers” provision – the court emphasized that “detaining individuals solely to verify their immigration status would raise constitutional concerns.” Instead, the Court held that the state courts first had to be given an opportunity to interpret this provision so that it could potentially be implemented in a constitutional manner, and that today’s decision “does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect.”
In light of this ruling, we will once again be urging the General Assembly to enact legislation in 2013 that would prevent police from using traffic enforcement as a subterfuge for trying to enforce federal immigration law. Concerns about undocumented immigrants cannot and should not be used as an excuse for racial profiling.