Back to mobile

With SCOTUS Decision on SB 1070 Lawsuits, Harrasment will Continue

by Published on
photo by Joanna Wojtkowiak

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down three provisions of Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 as unconstitutional Monday, but upheld one contentious section of the bill that allows law enforcement to check the immigration status of “any individual, as long as they have a ‘reasonable suspicion’ the person is unauthorized.”

Opponents of the bill refer to it as the “show me the papers” provision. And it has spurred racial discrimination lawsuits and created headaches for law enforcement. Back in 2010, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of Arizona’s Pima County, told a local TV station that SB 1070 was “the worst piece of legislation I’ve seen in 50 years,” pointing out that the law forces his deputies to adopt racial profiling.

Analysts at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute predicted that the U.S. Supreme Court might make such a ruling after U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli said the federal government would base its case on the question of federal versus state power in immigration enforcement, and not on the basis that the law spurs racial profiling.

So expect the harassment and the lawsuits to continue.

On Friday, I spoke with Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, a Democrat from Tucson, who has long been a vocal opponent of SB 1070 and the “show me the papers” provision. “If the justices rule that the ‘show me the papers’ part is still valid and constitutional then we have a fight ahead of us both politically and in terms of lawsuits going before the Supreme Court,” he said. Grijalva said he expect more lawsuits based on discrimination, racial profiling and unequal application of the law. “Those are still going to come to the Supreme Court,” he said. “The judicial fight will come and when the law comes into effect more litigation will be generated.”

After the announcement Monday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, decided to overlook the fact that a majority of the bill was struck down and celebrate the “show me the papers” provision as a victory for “all Americans who believe in the inherent right and responsibility of states to defend their citizens.”

“Today’s ruling does not mark the end of our journey,” she said in a statement. “It can be expected that legal challenges to SB 1070 and the State of Arizona will continue.”

Brewer can count on that.

As a whole, SB 1070 has already been ruinous for Arizona and the bitter battle will continue with the Supreme Court’s ruling. Grijalva said SB 1070 has damaged his state both economically and socially. “The state now has a reputation of being politically a backwater state and petri dish for bills like SB 1070 and the elimination of ethnic studies, et cetera,” he said. “It’s driven this wedge along racial lines that will be damaging for us for generations.”

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. Melissa is a 2014-15 Lannan Fellow at The Investigative Fund.