In the latest development in the struggle against the racist, anti-immigrant SB 1070 law in Arizona, the Supreme Court ruled on June 25 that three of four controversial sections of the legislation challenged by the federal Justice Department were unconstitutional, but upheld one of its most odious clauses.
The clause requires police to demand immigration papers from anyone they “reasonably suspect” of being undocumented, and, in all arrests, to contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement or otherwise determine immigration status—the “show me your papers” provision. The Lindsay/Osorio campaign condemns the court’s rubber-stamping of this measure.
Given the inherently racist character of the police force in this society, this decision will only intensify the campaign of terror being waged by cops against Latino communities in Arizona, directed by notorious anti-immigrant bigots like Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
At the same time, several aspects of SB 1070 were ruled unconstitutional. Two provisions created new crimes for working while undocumented, and leaving home without carrying immigration papers, imposing harsh state penalties above and beyond federal law. A third provision allowed police officers to arrest immigrants without a warrant. The court struck down these laws as encroaching on the federal immigration scheme. They were not struck down as violations of civil rights.
The Democratic Party will use this partial victory to posture as defenders of civil rights to gain political advantage in the current election cycle, but this is nothing but cynical manipulation.
Many more deportations have been carried out by this administration than under the George W. Bush administration. Human rights abuses in immigration detention centers persist, and despite controlling both houses of Congress and the presidency between the 2008 and 2010 elections, the Democrats made no serious attempt to enact any progressive legislation related to immigration.
The Obama administration would not have even brought the lawsuit if it had not been for the militant fightback of immigrants and their allies all over the United States, including anti-Arizona boycotts. Many DREAM Act youth were arrested protesting SB 1070, blocking roadways and picketing ICE.
In fact, Arizona’s “show me your papers” clause was a mere extension of programs that the federal government had itself incorporated into the immigration law. The notorious section “287(g),” encourages the federal government and local police departments to cooperate on immigration enforcement. The federal government provides local police departments with money and training to act as ICE agents. Section 287(g) was introduced as part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act and signed into law by Democratic President Clinton. The notorious “Secure Communities” and other ICE “community” enforcement programs that expanded under Obama’s presidency further crystallized this relationship.
In its analysis of the “show me your papers” clause, the Supreme Court in Arizona v. United States explained: “Consultation between federal and state officials is an important feature of the immigration system. Congress has made clear that no formal agreement or special training needs to be in place for state officers to ‘communicate with the [Federal Government] regarding the immigration status of any individual. …”
The U.S. Justice Department could have taken a more aggressive approach to the litigation, which might have led to a different result on the “show me your papers” clause. The government chose not to argue that such a blatantly racist measure violates the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by demonstrating the pervasiveness of racial profiling. Instead, it advanced a relatively apolitical case that SB 1070 “preempts” federal law, not once mentioning “secure communities” in its brief and arguing that 287(g) supported its case.
The Constitution states that legislation passed at the national level is the supreme law of the land, and therefore states cannot contradict federal law or policy, or enact laws that encroach on an area of law falling under the exclusive federal purview. This “federal preemption” argument left room for Arizona’s attorneys and the Supreme Court to get away with upholding the most infamous of the four measures. The Department of Justice was also able to avoid addressing systematic racial profiling; racism ironically also systematically plagues federal law enforcement, including ICE, and DOJ enforcement activity.
The movement against SB 1070 and all other racist, anti-immigrant legislation will continue. Moving forward with this struggle, we can learn a great deal from the heroic example of undocumented youth activists.
Thousands of young people, declaring that they were “undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic,” took a variety of militant actions and forced the administration to grant “deferred action” to undocumented youth, allowing them to apply for temporary work permits and social security cards. This movement was waged independently of the two capitalist political parties—in fact, Obama campaign offices were one of the most popular targets for civil disobedience actions by young activists.
In the spirit of this struggle, the Party for Socialism and Liberation’s Lindsay/Osorio presidential campaign calls for full rights for all immigrants, documented or not. Point seven of our 10-point program demands: “Abolish all anti-immigrant laws. Stop the raids and deportations. The government’s war on immigrants must end. The border wall must be dismantled.”
For equality to be permanently realized, we have to get rid of the system that survives by pitting sections of the working class against each other. In its place, we need a society in which political and economic power is in the hands of poor and working people of all nationalities—not racists like Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. We need to fight for socialism!