Supreme Court Ruling on Arizona’s SB1070 and the Potential Effects on Arizona Residents
The Supreme Court both upheld and struck down key provisions from SB1070 on Monday, June 25, 2012. Providing no ruling on the constitutionality of the legislation in SB1070, the Court focused its ruling on whether the state law superseded federal laws. A big question is now left unanswered as to whether the SB1070 legislation is unconstitutional according to the protection the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution warrants, which guards against unreasonable searches and prolonged detention.
During the consideration, Arizona asked the Supreme Court to permit the state to enforce the provisions that would give police officers the power to question a person’s immigration status and then detain those suspected of being an illegal immigrant without a warrant. They also asked the Court to allow the creation of state law that both require immigrants to carry documents proving their legal status, and also making it against the law for an illegal immigrant to seek employment.
The Supreme Court struck down three provisions, declaring that Arizona was illegally infringing into an area exclusively in the province of the federal government. The provisions struck down would have made it a state crime for an undocumented worker to seek employment in the state, would have criminalized under state law the failure to carry certain federal immigration documents, and also would have allowed state and local police to detain someone who is guilty of an offense that makes him or her deportable under federal immigration law.
The Supreme Court upheld Section 2b of SB1070, thus allowing the police to verify a person’s immigration status, as long as there is a reasonable suspicion the individual is undocumented. The Court further made it clear that Police officers are not allowed to detain individuals for an unreasonable amount of time. Providing no ruling for the constitutionality of this legislation, the Court simply ruled that this does not interfere with federal powers.
Is the Legislation from SB 1070 Constitutional?
Although Governor Jan Brewer declared the Court’s ruling a success, many are concerned about the constitutionality of questioning individuals about their immigration documentation. The Supreme Court’s ruling on SB1070 will now requires the police, when responding to a noise complaint or making a traffic stop, to determine if the individual is someone who could be in the country illegally.
Those supporting SB1070 argue the law’s purpose is to protect Arizona citizens from crimes committed by illegal immigrants. During the signing of the bill, Jan Brewer said, “Border violence and crime due to illegal immigration are critically important issues to the people of our state. . . . There is no higher priority than protecting the citizens of Arizona. We cannot sacrifice our safety to the murderous greed of the drug cartels. We cannot stand idly by as drop houses, kidnappings, and violence compromises our quality of life.”
The big concern expressed by those arguing against the bill’s constitutionality is that this ‘reasonable suspicion’ threshold for a police officer to verify a person’s immigration status is too broad, thereby opening the door to racial profiling, discrimination, and unreasonable detainment. Police officers must still look for specific indications supporting a ‘reasonable suspicion’ before they verify a person’s immigration. Indications that sufficiently ‘tip a police officer off’ about an individual’s immigration status include driving with no driver’s license, driving a car with foreign plates, difficulty speaking English, and even apparent nervousness. Is lacking English ability really enough? What about race, color, accent, or ethnicity? If you look and sound like you could be an undocumented immigrant, the police can ask you for your papers. How many US citizens would match this description?
Seek Counsel from an Experienced Attorney
The exact effects from the legislation and ruling of SB1070 are yet to be determined. Immigration law is complicated and always changing. The federal and state governments will continue to battle for control. Accordingly, when confronted with immigration questions or problems, it is always wise to seek counsel from an experienced immigration attorney in Phoenix Arizona. Our attorneys can assist you Gunderson, Denton, and Peterson PC can assist you with any questions you may have.
Written By Brent Gunderson
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