A Frustrating Decision on Arizona’s SB 1070

The Supreme Court’s ruling today on SB 1070 is a frustrating one.

The court upheld one of the law’s worst provisions—a frankly un-American government intrusion that allows police to ask anyone they stop for their immigration papers, regardless of whether the person is actually charged with a crime.

The court may have found that provision constitutional, but that does not make it wise. The “show me your papers” aspect of the law has already proved to be a moral and economic catastrophe for the state, cementing Arizona’s reputation as a place of intolerance and driving away the economic engine of the state—hard-working immigrants.

There is some positive news. The court struck down several of the law’s provisions, including the requirement that Arizona police arrest people they suspect are in the country illegally. That softens the impact of SB 1070, but doesn’t dispel the serious threat it poses to civil liberties.

There is another reason for hope. The court upheld the “show me your papers” provision on the grounds that since the law is not yet in effect, it hasn’t caused any racial profiling. That means that once evidence emerges that the law leads to discriminatory policing tactics—and it will—another legal challenge will likely follow. But that won’t do much to help those subjected to police stops and unwarranted harassment in the months to come.

Arizona business associations are fighting back against SB 1070 and laws like it. Similarly, business leaders here on Long Island recognize that immigration is an economic engine, driving important industries like farming, healthcare, and technology. In April, Long Island Wins co-organized a coalition of these stakeholders who are now working to make sure that we have welcoming immigration policies, and not policies like SB 1070, which trample civil rights and stifle economic growth. This ruling makes it clear that it’s up to us—all of us—to advocate for smarter and more welcoming immigration policies at the local, state, and national level.

Maryann Sinclair Slutsky is the executive director of Long Island Wins.

Image courtesy of deltaMike via Flickr.