Supreme Court decision on SB 1070: The good and the bad
In an odd twist of fate, both opponents and supporters
of SB 1070 are calling the Supreme Court decision a
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.
Immigration enforcement still hinges upon one thing:
federal enforcement. History has shown the federal
government has been selective at best when it comes to
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
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
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