Today, the Supreme Court struck down much of the Arizona SB1070 "Show Me Your Papers" Law, but upheld section 2(B), the specific portion that requires local law enforcement to ask people for proof of immigration status if they "reasonably suspect" an individual to be in the country illegally. Gov. Mitt Romney has called Arizona's immigration laws a model for the nation. The following is a statement by Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL), Chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the anti-immigrant movement, but also dealt a blow to Latinos and immigrants living in the United States. This threatens the safety of all Americans and undermines the fundamental relationship between police and the communities they serve, and I am proud that Chicago is not going down that road.
A central part of the law, which requires state and local law enforcement to check someone's citizenship status in the course of their duties, was upheld and will sanction pretextual stops and racial profiling. This gives a green light to Arizona sheriffs and others to use someone's clothing, accent, or appearance to take them to jail and hold them until their immigration status, if any, is sorted out.
Experience has shown us that police are highly unlikely to stop an individual with the last name of Kennedy or Roberts on suspicion of not being a legal U.S. citizen, but if you are a Gutierrez or Martinez, watch out. The express goal of the authors of Arizona's SB1070 is to target immigrants for harassment and make their lives miserable, and a key tool in that effort was upheld by the Court.
In our nation's history, the Supreme Court has been at its best when it expands freedom and demands that all Americans are treated fairly. This court fell short of that ideal today. Leaders who understand that allowing police to target anyone they choose, including American citizens, simply based on the way they look, or the sound of their voice, is wrong and has no place in our great country.
The President and Attorney General fought hard against the Arizona law and deserve praise for their leadership. Much of this decision is a victory for our community. This President is not afraid to do the right thing when faced with injustice. Now the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice and the White House have an even more important role in making sure federal immigration laws are not further undermined by and dictated by the states.
The President must stand firm because only the federal government can deport someone or turn a routine traffic stop into a lifetime of exile or a family permanently split apart.
The President's announcement last Friday is all the more important because the Supreme Court has moved to allow states to pick up thousands of low priority deportable immigrants, who could potentially flood already overtaxed deportation resources. Affirmatively protecting DREAM-eligible young immigrants from deportation will help mitigate the damage done by state legislators and the Supreme Court.
Now that leadership from our President is even more vital, it is important to note that Mitt Romney has called the Arizona law -- much of which was just deemed unconstitutional by the nation's highest court -- a "model for the nation." He counts on the main architect of this now-discredited law as a key immigration advisor. Today, the difference in leadership between President Obama and Mr. Romney could not be clearer. I urge Mr. Romney to repudiate his support for a policy now found to be largely unconstitutional.