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Impacted Arizonans, Legal Experts, & Faith Leaders Urge Supreme Court to Strike Down SB 1070

by Mahwish Khan on 04/25/2012 at 9:50am

Today, hundreds of opponents of SB 1070 gathered in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to speak out againstArizona’s “show me your papers” anti-immigration law, lift up firsthand accounts about the devastating impact SB 1070 has had on individuals, families and communities in Arizona, and demand federal action on real, positive immigration reform.  At a press conference and rally, a coalition of national civil rights, faith, and religious leaders joined forces alongside impacted Arizona residents to send an important message to the Court and states considering similar legislation: SB 1070 is not only unconstitutional, it’s un-American.

According to Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center:

The implications of this decision will reverberate far beyond Arizona’s borders, and undermine our fundamental principles of fairness and equality. Regardless of the outcome of the Supreme Court hearing, the National Immigration Law Center will continue to fight SB 1070 and laws like it until they are struck down as unconstitutional.

As Jim Shee’s story makes clear, the Arizona law has already lead to racial profiling and harassment of legal residents and citizens:

As a US citizen, a life-long resident of Arizona, I never expected that I would have to carry my passport with me all the time. But when SB1070 passed, I started getting stopped and interrogated for my papers, just because of the way I look. Unless SB1070 is struck down, I fear I will continue to face racial profiling and discrimination by the State of Arizona simply because of our race and the way we look. This is not what Arizona, or America is supposed to be about.

At the press conference, Shee also noted that his wife, who is of Japanese descent, had been forced to live in internment camps during World War II.

Cecillia Wang, Director, American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project said:

Arizona persisted in its radical arguments that it should be able to enact its own state laws that transform police officers into immigration agents.  Arizona is flying in the face of the founders’ core vision and Congress’s comprehensive federal immigration laws, and undermining basic American rights, national interests, and everyone’s public safety.  The state reinforced today that SB 1070 cannot be allowed to stand.

Hilary O. Shelton, the Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy said:

“We are here today to let the Supreme Court, as well as the court of public opinion, know that we will not allow these laws to take us back to the times of black codes when there were two distinct classes of people, and that these groups are treated differently by the law,” said  ”We will not return to a time when racial profiling is not only prevalent, it is in fact sanctioned and even called for by the law of the land.”

And,  Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of CASA de Maryland, stated:

Our Maryland children learn about the continuing human rights violations under SB 1070 and our country’s ongoing struggle with race,” said. “Like in decades past, it is exactly at moments of extreme intolerance that our nation’s leaders must come together to ensure that all families are treated with dignity and respect.

The Supreme Court decision, expected in June, could send a strong message to states that it’s not their job to enforce federal immigration laws, or it could enable a patchwork of fifty state immigration laws, instead of a practical, national approach.  While it’s certainly true that the current system is broken, only the federal government can resolve it.

“There is only one acceptable outcome in this case—the Supreme Court should uphold the Constitution and affirm that immigration enforcement must be handled at the federal level,” said Janet Murguia, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza.   “The answer to fixing our broken immigration system cannot be a patchwork of racial profiling laws.  These laws have caused great harm to Latino families and other residents of these states.  Unconstitutional bills like SB 1070 are false solutions that distract from the only real solution—comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level.”

Father Clete KileyDirector of Immigration Policy, UNITE HERE said: 

Arizona’s proposed solution to our broken immigration system, like Alabama’s law and the anti-immigrant laws passed by several other states, is no solution at all.  America’s immigrants are our neighbors, our co-workers and our future.  Criminalization and unfair targeting of our immigrant brothers and sisters is nothing more than scapegoating aimed at dividing us and distracting our attention from the real problems we face.

According to Marshall Fitz Director of Immigration Policy, Center for American Progress:

If the Supreme Court blesses these laws, it will not simply be resolving a doctrinal debate about the limits of state authority over immigration policy. It will effectively give states the green light to treat people differently based on their appearance rather than on their actions. And it will do so at a time when the color and face of our nation are changing dramatically, and ethnic diversity is becoming the norm across the country.

Our own Frank Sharry, Executive Director, America’s Voice Education Fund added:

 Arizona’s draconian ‘show me your papers’ law has touched off a civil rights crisis not only in Arizona but across the country—several states like Alabama and Georgia have followed SB 1070’s poor example.  Today, we’re not only giving a voice to the immigrant community, we’re giving a voice to the country by standing up for what’s right and putting an end to laws that encourage discriminatory behavior.  As the history books are written, that’s the American way.

Activists, officials, lawyers, and lawmakers all over the nation have been speaking out about the dangers of the Arizona law and copycat legislation in other states.  Last month, over 300 organizations joined 19 amici briefs supporting the U.S. Government in its legal challenge against SB 1070.  Among those joining are 68 Members of Congress; forty-four former state attorneys general; dozens of cities and towns; labor, business, and civil rights leaders; law enforcement experts; foreign governments; the American Bar Association; the American Civil Liberties Union; former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; former commissioners of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service; prominent religious institutions; and numerous faith, labor, and immigrants’ rights organizations.

And then there are the amici filers from the other side, opposing the Federal government’s challenge to SB 1070 and supporting the Arizona law.  This list, compiled here by SCOTUS Blog, is a veritable who’s who of the anti-immigrant world, a collection of the worst-of-the-worst restrictionists, nativists, and extremists.  It’s not enviable company: the list includes a recalled former state senator, a notorious sheriff currently being sued by the Justice Department, a group that once included a woman convicted of murder, a Member of Congress who thinks that we should treat undocumented immigrants like livestock, and several outfits with known ties to a white supremacist.  They represent the dark side of America—the one that believes all immigrants are criminals and the only solution to our broken immigration system is mass deportation or the “kinder, gentler” version: self-deportation.

Outside the Supreme Court today, Evangelical leaders stood alongside DREAMers to speak out against Arizona’s law and voice their support for more and just immigration reform.

Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition said

Evangelicals are committed to laws that allow us to minister to and love the immigrant. SB1070 not only fosters profiling but also stands in the way of our Christian duty. Silence is not an option!

Katherine Tabares, a member of Make the Road New York, current valedictorian of her high school, and a fellow DREAMer, stated:

Today, I join my fellow immigrants and US Citizens to say that any action taken against an immigrant in Arizona, is an action taken against all of us,” said . “We are united to say that the Supreme Court of the United States must realize that the only solution to the immigration problem must come from the Federal government.  We are all immigrants and what we want is succeed for our future and the future of the country. We have the right to live without fear!

Some speakers shared firsthand accounts of the shattering impact the law’s having on the ground.

From Dr. Warren Stewart, senior pastor of First Institutional Baptist Church in Phoenix:

As a pastor and civil rights leader in a diverse and tight-knit community in Phoenix, Arizona, I can attest to the culture of fear in Latino and immigrant communities created by SB 1070. This discriminatory law does not reflect our values, it is not who we are as a nation.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote from the Birmingham Jail, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.’  Whatever the decision of the Supreme Court, Congress must unite and provide just, humane comprehensive immigration reform that represents our great nation at its best.

According to Dulce Matuz, president of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition and recently selected as one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People:

I will always remember the day Governor Brewer signed SB1070 into law. From that day, my community has had to live in constant fear. All we immigrant youth want is to go to school, go to church, to work hard, and make our parents and teachers proud – by becoming contributing members of our community. As long as SB1070 stands, it feels like the government is trying to drive all of us Latinos and immigrants out of the state. But I grew up in Arizona, and it’s the only home I know. We are staying in Arizona, and standing up, not just for ourselves, but for Arizona, and for America, because this nation is better than the fear and discrimination that SB1070 represents.

Others noted the fact that SB 1070 will play a significant role in the elections this year, both in Arizona and across the nation.

Maria Teresa Kumar, founding Executive Director, Voto Latino said:

Arizona created an atmosphere in which fellow Americans are asking their Latino American neighbors for their papers. We have seen an influx of racial profiling come out of this that will now extend to the polls when Latino Americans go to vote and are asked for their identification.

And, Eliseo Medina, International Secretary-Treasurer of Service Employees International Union provided this important perspective:

When we vote, we can get rid of the nativist politicians who write these laws. When we vote, we can get rid of the politicians who appoint judges that uphold racist or unjust laws. The power is in our hands and we will make the difference.

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