As the U.S, Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of Arizona’s SB 1070 on Wednesday, hundreds of civil rights organizers, immigrations advocacy groups, DREAMers, religious leaders, and Arizonians gathered outside the high court to protest the state’s anti-immigration bill.
Activists denounced the law’s “show me your papers” provision, which allows law enforcement to demand proof of citizenship from anyone, whether citizen or undocumented, based on simple perceptions.
Speakers at the rally highlighted the devastating consequences that would befall the undocumented, immigrant families, and people of color living in Arizona. They also noted how the entire nation would suffer should the law be deemed constitutional.
“The implications of this decision will reverberate far beyond Arizona’s borders, and undermine our fundamental principles of fairness and equality,” said Marielena Hincapie, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.
By June, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on whether states like Arizona—Alabama, Georgia, Utah, and Indiana have already followed suit with similar laws—have the power to pass and enforce local immigration legislation without following federal regulations.
Sanctioning a patchwork of anti-immigrant laws risks dividing our nation along regional lines instead of keeping us united, the activists said. The Supreme Court should uphold a singular vision of America treating people with fairness and equal protection under the law, they argued.
“If the Supreme Court blesses these laws, it will not simply be resolving a doctrinal debate about the limits of state authority over immigration policy,” said Marshall Fitz, director of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress, our parent organization.
Fitz noted with a new generation of young people that is more diverse than ever, laws like SB 1070 will likely put the majority of Americans at odds with some racial profiling tendencies.
“It will effectively give states the green light to treat people differently based on their appearance rather than their actions,” Fitz said. “And it will do so at a time when the color and face of our nation are changing dramatically and ethnic diversity is becoming a norm across the country.”
By enacting laws that seek to regulate immigration flows by “attrition through enforcement”—and making earning a living and procuring basic necessities so difficult for the undocumented that they will choose to “self-deport”—is not only ineffective but wades into policy territory generally reserved for the federal government. That distinction is the main issue of contention in the Supreme Court case.
“Arizona is flying in the face of the Founders’ core vision and Congress’ comprehensive federal immigration law,” said Cecilia Wang, the director of the America Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project, adding that SB 1070 is “undermining basic American rights, national interests, and everyone’s public safety.”
DREAMers—young, undocumented people who would benefit from a federal DREAM Act—and other young activists at the rally said SB 1070 both impacts undocumented workers and has wide ranging implications for children of the undocumented, many of whom are U.S. citizens. Often, they live in fear that one of their family members may be detained on their drive to work, and others see their educational dreams shelved when they’re forced to drop out of college to help with paying the bills.
“Any action taken against an immigrant in Arizona is an action taken against all of us” said DREAMer Katherine Tabares (a member of Make The Road New York). “We are all immigrants and what we want is to succeed for our future and the future of our country. We have the right to live without fear.”
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