Pasadena Star-News – Supreme Court Decision – Immigration


San Gabriel Valley politicians and activists react to Supreme Court’s immigration split decision

By Brian Charles and Brenda Gazzar
Posted:   06/25/2012 07:30:24 PM PDT

Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona, wipes her forehead as Arizona politicians and immigration rights groups react to the United States Supreme Court decision regarding Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB1070, after the decision came down at the Arizona Capitol Monday, in Phoenix. The Supreme Court struck down key provisions of Arizona s crackdown on immigrants Monday but said a much-debated portion on checking suspects status could go forward. (AP Photo)

A split decision by the Supreme Court to Arizona’s controversial immigration law was met with mixed reactions by the San Gabriel Valley’s politicians and the area’s politically minded.

In a 5-3 decision, the court tossed out three key provisions of the Arizona law: cops won’t be allowed to arrest people solely on the belief the person has committed a deportable crime; undocumented immigrants won’t face state criminal charges for obtaining employment and won’t face state criminal charges for failing to register as undocumented with the federal government.

Justice Elena Kagan had worked on the case during her tenure as solicitor general. She recused herself from the Supreme Court proceedings.

The court upheld the most controversial portion of the law, which calls for officers to ask people they suspect might be in the country illegally for documentation during routine traffic stops or arrests.

The decision to leave immigration enforcement in the hands of federal authorities was applauded Monday by San Gabriel Valley Democratic political leaders and immigrant rights advocates.

“Today, the Supreme Court reiterated that the federal government has broad, irrefutable power over immigration under the Constitution,” Rep. Judy Chu, D-El Monte, said in a statement Monday.

Arizona’s 2010 decision to enact S.B. 1070 to enforce immigration laws independent of the federal government, was long criticized as an overreach by the state.


“Immigration should be monitored by federal law, not by the creation of fragmented laws that each state wants to impose,” said Randy Ertll, executive director of the Pasadena-based El Centro De Accion Social and an advocate for overturning Arizona’s law.

Critics of the Arizona law raised concerns that the remnants of S.B. 1070 would fuel racial profiling on the part of cops.

“While I am pleased that the Supreme Court struck down provisions of Arizona’s immigration law S.B. 1070, I am concerned that the validity of the `show me your papers’ provision was upheld and remains unclear,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, said.

Ertll echoed the concerns many had about Monday’s decision and its potential to spur racial profiling by the cops in Arizona.

“You can’t have the government or state becoming a police state, where everyone is a suspect. I think that may happen,” Ertll said. “Of course, they will target people who fit a certain profile. That’s what shouldn’t occur.”

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles called the ruling “a dark day for justice in the history” of the country.

“In one sweep, the Supreme Court has sided with Arizona and allowed racial profiling

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as an acceptable law enforcement tool,” the organization said in a statement.

The statement called on the Obama administration to “aggressively enforce civil rights laws across the country” and send civil rights monitors to “states that legalize discrimination.”

It also called on the administration to fulfill its promise of “prosecutorial discretion” by providing relief to families and workers threatened with separation.

Not all Latino leaders shared the concerns expressed by immigrant rights activists and local Democrat lawmakers that the decision leaves open the potential for racist application of Arizona’s law.

Jimmy O’Balles, president of the Monrovia Latino Heritage Society, said he believes the Supreme Court ruling will effectively limit racial profiling since it makes clear people cannot be randomly stopped.

“I believe it restricts (racial profiling),” O’Balles said. “It forces the state to work with the federal government in having guidelines… They have to cooperate with the federal government and establish guidelines as far as how and why they are stopping people.”

Gonzalo, an undocumented immigrant and Pasadena City College student, said the law as drafted grants police broad discretion for detaining people suspected of being in the country illegally.

“All they need is to pull you over,” said Gonzalo, who asked that his last name not be used as he fears doing so would open him up to deportation. “By them pulling you over, that’s the only probable cause they need. They’re always doing that.”

Michael Alexander, president of the Pasadena TEAPAC, supported the “show me your papers” requirement, which he said underscores the right of a state or a community to protect itself from the negative effects of illegal immigration.

But in striking down the other three provisions of the law, the majority of the Supreme Court effectively stood the federal immigration law on its head, he said.

“The majority, in effect, ruled that Arizona was interfering in the enforcement of federal immigration law by enforcing immigration law when the chief law enforcement officer, the president, was refusing to do so,” Alexander said.

State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who patrolled the California-Mexico border as a founding member of a Minuteman group in 2005, questioned the court’s decision to strike down major provisions of the law.

“I am disappointed that the court struck down the provision regarding a state’s right to protect jobs, legal immigrants and Americans,” Donnelly said in a statement Monday. “Today’s decision rightly affirmed that a state may act to protect its interests and that we are all equal under the law. This marks an important step in the right direction.”

The court’s decision comes on the heels of an executive order by President Barack Obama to allow undocumented immigrants under 30 to remain in the country and declares them eligible for a two-year work permit, given the person came here as a minor, earned a high school diploma or has served in the military.

Monday’s decision by the court reignited the debate over national immigration reform.

“Today’s ruling does make it clear that we need a comprehensive, federal solution that puts in place a rational, safe and efficient immigration process,” Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Cerritos, said Monday. “The American people deserve an immigration system that will support our communities and make it possible for millions of young people to contribute to the country they already call home.”

In his statement Monday, Donnelly included a scathing criticism of Obama’s recent executive decision.

“Consistent with his recent action of granting back-door amnesty to young illegal aliens, the President has defiantly stood up against the decision of the Supreme Court, by ordering the Department of Homeland Security to ignore this latest immigration ruling,” Donnelly said. “It remains be seen whether the department will ignore or obey the illegal order of this tyrannical president.”

Arizona’s immigration law, S.B. 1070, became the blueprint for similar tough-on-illegal immigration laws passed by conservative states across the country.

In 2011, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah enacted similar laws.

The court’s decision Monday was made along very narrow lines and will allow for additional challenges to the Arizona law. One such challenge is currently winding its way through the courts, which Sen. Barbra Boxer said could set up another judicial showdown between supporters and opponents of the Arizona law.

“I was disappointed that one provision was upheld, but the Supreme Court sent a clear message that if the measure is not implemented narrowly – to help federal officials enforce immigration law – it will not stand,” Senator Barbara Boxer said Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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