Today the Supreme Court struck down three parts of Arizona’s anti-immigration law, S.B. 1070, while allowing Arizona to implement the “papers please” provision that will inevitably lead to racial profiling. Section 2(B) of the law mandates that police check the papers of anyone they suspect is in the country without legal status.
S.B. 1070 and laws like it break apart the fabric of our society, harm our public safety, and most of all, do not solve the problem of a broken immigration system. Here we list the top reasons why S.B. 1070 damages our country:
1. The law institutionalizes racial profiling
Arizona’s S.B. 1070 compels police to ask for papers from anyone they have a reasonable suspicion of being without status. Under this law any person of color, or anyone with a foreign accent, can be required to prove their status and be jailed—regardless of whether they are a citizen or an immigrant—until they can do so.
By targeting certain groups of people living within the state, the Arizona law amounts to an ethnically divisive and deeply hostile social policy. It raises the specter of states treating people differently based solely on their appearance rather than on their actions. Every person in Arizona and states that pass S.B. 1070-like legislation will be required to carry proof of their legal status at all times or face the possibility of being detained. In practice it will be people of color that bear the brunt of these policies.
2. The law compromises public safety and health
Instead of focusing on community safety, law enforcement professionals in Arizona and other states with anti-immigrant laws will be forced to focus more on detaining unauthorized immigrants. As Sgt. Bryan Soller, president of the Mesa, Arizona Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 9, puts it, “If we’re getting hammered with calls, is a misdemeanor [trespassing by an illegal immigrant] more important than a stabbing or shooting? No.” Likewise, immigrants who live in fear of anti-immigrant laws will be afraid to go to the police to report a crime, making all of our communities less safe.
As for public health, in the months after Alabama’s similar immigration law was enacted, health workers in Alabama reported that people are afraid to come to their clinics for flu shots. A key safeguard of public health is a robust immunization program that protects all residents against diseases such as chicken pox, measles, polio, and even the flu. But if parents are afraid to get flu shots for themselves or their children, even though the law technically says that lawful status is not required for immunizations, our whole society is put at risk.
3. S.B. 1070 doesn’t solve illegal immigration
States have no authority to deport immigrants from this country—that power falls solely to the federal government. S.B. 1070’s strategy, therefore, is to make life so difficult for illegal immigrants that they “self-deport.” But research shows that anti-immigrant laws don’t cause self-deportation. At best immigrants either leave the state for a friendlier one or go deeper underground. This strategy can have devastating effects on legal and undocumented immigrants and citizens alike, but they don’t result in deporting a single undocumented immigrant.