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Updated Jun 26, 2012 - 12:39 pm

Supreme Court decision on SB 1070: The good and the bad

This artist rendering shows Supreme Court Justices from left, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel A. Alito, and Elena Kagan inside Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, June 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Dana Verkouteren)

In an odd twist of fate, both opponents and supporters of SB 1070 are calling the Supreme Court decision a victory.

Opponents claim this because much of the teeth of the law have been ruled invalid. The Court ruled the state of Arizona cannot charge illegal immigrants with a state misdemeanor simply because they are here in the state without papers or because they have applied for a job. The nation's highest Court said the federal penalties must remain the law of the land. Those penalties include deportation. In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote removal from this country is a civil matter, not a criminal one. Where SB 1070 erred was attempting to make it a criminal offense.

Despite these major law enforcement implications being removed, supporters of SB 1070, including Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and SB 1070 author Russell Pearce also claim the decision is a victory because it upholds the ‘heart' of the law.

The heart is Section 2(b), more commonly known as the ‘show me your papers' clause. This section, as the only portion of SB 1070 to be upheld, allows police officers to conduct immigration status checks during lawful stops.

Here's what's good about the ruling:

Like it or not, the country's immigration policy is a bit clearer today than it was yesterday. States cannot add additional criminal penalties to existing federal statutes regarding illegal immigration. With SB 1070, Arizona attempted to enact state laws that are more aggressive than federal laws.

The Supreme Court said no.

Now, other states know how to proceed with their own efforts to combat illegal immigration. For instance, the state of Arizona can continue to crack down on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants with the employer sanctions law. That law allows for the state to implement fines and even shut down a business if they fail to comply. States can also more aggressively pursue identity theft charges to crack down on illegal immigrants who buy documents to help them find employment.

What's bad?

Immigration enforcement still hinges upon one thing: federal enforcement. History has shown the federal government has been selective at best when it comes to this.

For example, the Obama Administration has ordered the Department of Homeland Security to stop deporting illegal immigrants who were brought here as minors. But, on the other hand, this administration has been very aggressive with deporting illegal immigrants.

Last year, more illegal immigrants were deported from America than ever before. That's another problem. There seems to be no clear policy when it comes to dealing with illegal immigration.

The bottom line is this Supreme Court decision doesn't change much. It clearly spells out the steps local law enforcement must take in handling suspected illegal immigrants.

Basically, all immigration violations will be handled by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, not the state of Arizona. This has been the way law enforcement has been operating for the last few years. So, this isn't a victory for either side. Not really. It's simply a clarification that this country needs a new approach to illegal immigration.

About the Author

Rob spent his formative years growing up in Massachusetts, but after graduating from Emerson College in Boston, he's had the privilege of living in Florida, New Orleans and New Mexico. Rob & his wife Amy have lived in Phoenix since 2006 when he joined KTAR. Rob is passionate about our freedom and rights -- something he learned to love while growing up in the Boston area.


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