The first thing I was struck by in reading the reports that the US Supreme Court had struck down all parts of Arizona Immigration law SB 1070 expect the provision that police have the authority to question the immigration status of arrestees taken in for non-immigration related crimes is how many people are claiming victory on either side. Immediately after the ruling, President Obama issued a statement which (though calling for a more comprehensive federal approach to immigration as opposed to a patchwork of state laws and defending this nation’s status as a ‘nation of immigrants’) praised the ruling as favorable to his stand on easing immigration restrictions. Conversely, Jan Brewer, the Republican governor of Arizona, called the ruling a triumph for her stricter immigration policy and one that will allow the ‘heart of SB 1070’ to be implemented ‘in accordance with the US Constitution’. Finally, Mitt Romney, weighing in on the immigration issue, stated that the debate showed a lack of any sort of leadership on President Obama’s part regarding immigration.
Unfortunately, the person whose statements most accurately reflect the truth of this decision are Gov. Brewer’s remarks that the essence of the bill will still be allowed to come into effect as law, a law that will cast a haze of suspicion over a large part of the US population. Despite the political grandstanding occurring in Washington over the issue, the fact is that not much will change in the daily lives of the Hispanic population of the Southwestern United States who will continue to live in constant fear of deportation no matter what their citizen status. Police, who serve the public through following the directives of those whom only a percentage of the public has elected to office, will have discretionary power to call into question the immigration status of whomever they deem to be suspicious simply by arresting them for any arbitrary crime and then deporting them. While it is important to note that the Court’s decision was split and left the option open in the future for further examination of the application of the law, the discriminatory heart of the law was left intact by today’s ruling.
I concede that it is important that we not allow criminals who are not a citizen of this country remain in the United States (which, in my opinion, includes Dharun Ravi, an argument best saved for another post), but at the same time it is counterproductive to our ideals as a nation to actively discriminate against a specific group of immigrants out of fear and ignorance. Migrant workers fulfill a vital role in our nation’s economy, and their children often grow up to be some of the most accomplished and educated members of this nation and a valuable part of American identity. President Obama has made significant progress in allowing those brought into this country illegally as children through no fault of their own to remain here and further their education, but there remains more work to be done on this front if America is to retain its legacy as a true nation of immigrants.