July 09, 2012

Supreme Court Ruling on SB1070

One June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States overruled the majority of Arizona statute, Senate Bill 1070, regarding it as unconstitutional.  One of the three sections of SB1070 to be overruled was section three, which essentially makes it a state misdemeanor for immigrants to not carry their alien registration documentations at all time.  The third clause was overruled on grounds that the state law infringed on the rule of the federal government.  Arizona has made claims that the third clause is constitutional, on the grounds that the provision seeks to enforce federal law under their standards.  This is certainly not the case.  Under federal law, the failure to carry alien registration papers is a misdemeanor that can result in fines, imprisonment, or probation.  Under the third clause of the Arizona statute, consequences of probation and pardons are thrown out.  Therefore, the state of Arizona sought to implement their own laws on federal matters, infringing on the rights of the federal government.

 The Supreme Court also overruled section 5(C), which makes it a criminal penalty for undocumented immigrants to work or seek work in the state of Arizona.  While 5(C) intends to uphold federal law by deterring unauthorized immigrants from working unlawfully in the United States, 5(C) infringes on the power of the federal government by conflicting with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. IRCA ultimately made it a criminal penalty for employers to hire, recruit, refer, or continue to employ unauthorized workers.  Unlike SB1070, IRCA does not impose criminal penalties upon undocumented immigrants who work or seek work in the United States.  Even though SB1070 seeks to enforce federal laws, it does so in a manner of different enforcement.  Therefore, SB1070 5(C) infringes on the power of the federal government, and the Supreme Court was justified in overturning the clause. 

Section 6, the last section of SB1070 to be overruled by the Supreme Court, gave state officers the power to arrest any person the officer believes has committed a public offense which makes him removable from the United States.  Like section 3 and 5(C), section 6 also conflicts with federal government ruling.  When undocumented immigrants are stopped, they should not immediately be detained or deported.  Instead, a federal official will give the undocumented immigrant a Notice to Appear, which gives the individual information on the proceedings and the date and time of their removal hearing.  If an undocumented immigrant does not attend his/her hearing, an in absentia order will direct removal.  The federal statutory structure explains when it is acceptable to arrest an undocumented immigrant during the removal process.  If an undocumented immigrant is ordered to removal after their hearing, they will be issued a warrant by the Attorney General. The warrant must be issued by a federal officer. Section 6 gives power to state officers to conduct arrests without Federal Government consent, which would result in the State’s own immigration policy.  Only the federal government can decide which undocumented immigrants may be detained and removed.  

Unfortunately, 2(B) of SB1070 was upheld by the Supreme Court.  Section 2(B) instructs state officers to determine an individual’s immigration status when that person is stopped, detained, or arrested for a legitimate reason if there is suspicion of that individual being an undocumented immigrant.  Thankfully, there are three limitations to section 2(B). First, an individual who is detained is assumed to not be an alien if he/she provides a valid Arizona driver’s license or similar identification. Second, officers cannot take race, national origin, or color into consideration.  Third, 2(B) must coincide with federal law by protecting the civil rights of all people while respecting the privileges of US citizens. 

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