The National Impact of SB 1070's New Provisions

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Opponents of Arizona's immigration enforcement law SB 1070 celebrate after it was announced that a judge blocked some controversial provisions of the law on July 28, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. (John Moore/Getty)

The United States Supreme Court ruled most of SB 1070 unconstitutional yesterday. However, Section 2B, which requires police officers to check the immigration status of suspected undocumented immigrants, was left untouched. SCOTUS’ provisions will have ramifications in other states dealing with immigration policy. Alabama State Senator Gerald Dial is the Republican majority whip representing east Alabama’s 13th District. Zayne Smith is an immigration attorney with the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice.

"We also have the portion in our bill that allows a law enforcement officer to stop an individual and determine if they're here legally or not," Dial says. "The governor and the state law enforcement have gone to a lot of trouble to teach our police officers where they will know how to do this without racial profiling." 

Senator Dial originally supported Alabama's tough immigration bill, known as HB 56, the provisions of which are similar to Arizona's SB 1070. However, after the law began to produce unintended consequences, such as drops in school attendance by children whose parents feared they would be deported, Dial worked to dial down the law. 

"We did make some major revisions to the Alabama law," Dial says. The portion that requires schools to determine the legal status of its children, however, is still in place. "I've been in contact with a lot of school teachers and administrators, and they tell me that they're not policemen, they're teachers." 

The law was passed in June 2011, and requires that police check the immigration status of anyone who is pulled over in a "lawful stop", provided that the officer has "reasonable suspicion" that the stopped individual is in the country illegally. While the similar provision of Arizona's SB 1070 was upheld by the Supreme Court, the justices struck down other provisions that mirror other components of Alabama's law. The language that would make activities such as looking for work without permission to be in the United States a state crime was struck by the Court on the grounds that it would pre-empt federal law.

"What is very unique about the opinion that the Supreme Court left us with yesterday is that they opened the door to further challenges to Alabama's HB 56 law," Smith says, especially Section 12, which requires police to determine the status of an individual reasonably suspected to be unlawful. "The Supreme Court did not say that Arizona Section 2 or Alabama Section 12 is not constitutional. They left the door open for further challenges."

The decision is a "warning shot" for states, Smith believes, warning them that "show me your papers" provisions must be applied very narrowly in order to avoid conflict with the Constitution. "I believe that the Supreme Court could foresee civil rights violations occurring."

With the Supreme Court identifying the tensions between federal and state law, politicians are now calling on Congress for comprehensive reform. "This is a federal issue and it should be addressed on the federal level," Dial says. 

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton shared the same sentiment in his reaction to the decision: "Today's decision by the Supreme Court is a reminder that we can't have a patchwork of state laws on immigration around the country. We need Congress to act now."


Senator Gerald Dial and Zayne Smith

Produced by:

Robert Balint and Mythili Rao

Comments [3]


"Anti-immigration laws"
Are DWI checkpoints anti-driving and anti-alcohol laws?
Are liquor license permits a return to Prohibition?

Is this a disturbing example of a politicized Supreme Court or is that charge made only when the Court favors a conservative opinion?

Jun. 26 2012 11:09 AM

@AsaJohnson Illegal immigrants are here because our businesses provide them with jobs. Our government looks the other way because our business communities use their lobby to keep enforcement to a minimum. Our government would rather infringe on everyone else's rights.

If you say to yourself "I won't get pulled over" you might be right and you'd be looking at the hole in Arizona's law. There's a VW TV ad where two light-skinned caucasian males learn to speak perfect Spanish on a road trip. Those guys are latin or Hispanic. Their gestures and specific accents clearly show this. But their English seems like they learned during childhood. Either or both guys could be undocumented and it's improbable an Arizona cop would have asked for their "papers".

Jun. 26 2012 09:37 AM
Asa Johnson from Manhattan

I am a supporter of immigration reform and feel that immigrants make our country strong but I have been having trouble explaining to my wife why Arizona should be censored for enforcing laws. She has been asking me all morning about why in her experience she is forbidden from entering places she does not have access to but that illegal immigrants seem able to enter and live in the United States.

Her example is that if she started showing up to classes at NYU they would tell her she is not enrolled and would eventually stop her from going to the classes. Her company has to spend huge amounts of money to sponsor non-citizen workers and there are long wait lists for standard immigration procedure.

I just don't know what to tell her without resorting to a "We are not a 'show your papers' sort of country" or "But breaking up families is mean" style of argument.

What should I say?

Jun. 26 2012 08:39 AM

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