Mike Kueber's Blog

June 26, 2012

Arizona v. United States

Filed under: Issues,Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 4:11 am
Tags: , ,

Earlier today, the Supreme Court handed down a long-awaited decision regarding Arizona’s immigration law known as S.B. 1070.  In a 5-3 decision (with Roberts and Kennedy voting with three liberals and Sotomayor recusing herself), the court struck down three of the four major provisions in the law, but sustained the most controversial one – 2.b. – which requires police officers to make a “reasonable attempt . . . to determine the immigration status” of any person they stop, detain, or arrest on some other legitimate basis if “reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien and is unlawfully present in the United States.”

The three provisions that were struck down are the following:

1.         Section 3 makes failure to comply with federal alien-registration requirements a state misdemeanor.

2.         Section 5(C) makes it a misdemeanor for an unauthorized alien to seek or engage in work in the State.

3.         Section 6 authorizes state and local officers to arrest without a warrant a person “the officer has probable cause to believe . . . has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States.

In sustaining Section 2.b., the Supreme Court Three noted that there are three significant limitations built into the law:

  1. First, a detainee is presumed not to be an alien unlawfully present in the United States if he or she provides a valid Arizona driver’s license or similar identification.
  2. Second, officers “may not consider race, color or national origin . . . except to the extent permitted by the United States [and] Arizona Constitution[s].”
  3. Third, the provisions must be “implemented in a manner consistent with federal law regulating immigration, protecting the civil rights of all persons and respecting the privileges and immunities of United States citizens

The second limitation above has always been the most problematic, and I have yet to see any credible discussion on how to separate “reasonable suspicion” from racial profiling.  Unfortunately, the Supreme Court decision failed to address this concern, so we will have to continue struggling with it.  Like the producer in The Newsroom last night who, when asked to describe a worker who had helped him, felt it would be inappropriate to describe him as “Indian” even though that would have been quickly effective.  Or like me today, when the black physical-therapy receptionist asked me to identify the therapist who previously handled my knee therapy.  I felt uncomfortable describing him as a black guy, and after some hesitation, I said he looked just like Cuba Gooding.

Although political correctness is becoming a cliche, I don’t know how else to characterize our floundering with this issue.

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