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STATEMENT: CAP Action’s Angela Kelley on Supreme Court Ruling on Arizona’s Anti-immigration Law

Court Aims to Limit Racial Profiling But Doesn't Give Full Protection

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Contact: Christina DiPasquale
Phone: 202.481.8181

Washington, D.C. — The United States Supreme Court today largely affirmed that state immigration laws like Arizona’s S.B. 1070 violate our Constitution, but it upheld one of the most troubling provisions of  Arizona’s anti-immigration law, while striking down three others. Angela Maria Kelley, Vice President for Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund released the following statement:

Though making an effort to limit the opportunities for racial profiling, the Supreme Court still upheld one of S.B. 1070’s central and most offensive provisions, the requirement that law enforcement officers demand proof of legal status from anyone they suspect is undocumented. This “papers please” provision will directly lead to racial and ethnic profiling based on the way people look or the way they speak, regardless of whether they have been American citizens all of their lives.

Still, today’s ruling was narrow in that the Court only concluded that federal law did not pre-empt states from enacting these "papers please" laws. Lawsuits challenging the provision on racial profiling grounds will continue to be litigated and we are confident that the measure will ultimately be struck down. Unfortunately, the Court’s ruling today means that while we await that future decision, the fundamental rights of Americans living in those states will be degraded.

This decision is still a set-back to civil rights in America, but it is not a defeat. The civil rights and immigrant rights communities will continue to fight against laws like S.B. 1070 in the courts, in state legislatures, and in Congress. These measures don’t exist in a vacuum. As recent polling shows, Latinos voters are paying close attention to the court’s ruling and a majority believe the decision will contribute to a hostile environment for Latinos. Moreover laws like these hurt our community safety, bankrupt economies, and undermine our national unity so it is not surprising that the rush to follow Arizona down this treacherous road has stalled. States that were considering copycat measures in 2012 all took a pass after seeing how costly and socially divisive these laws are.

Today’s ruling increases the urgency of sensible and workable federal immigration reform. But that is only possible with bipartisan support. So we call on the Republican Party to repudiate the politics of division and come to the negotiating table. And in the interim, we call on the Obama administration to continue fighting against laws like S.B. 1070, which have no place in America.

Specifically, we ask the administration to double down on its strong efforts to stand up for the civil rights of all residents; we ask the administration to send civil rights monitors into the states that implement these "papers please" laws; and we ask the administration to halt the Secure Communities program in those states.

The Supreme Court’s decision today will be a watershed moment in the history of American immigration policy, but we believe it will be the beginning of a movement toward the basic American principle of greater inclusivity, rather than the repudiation of it.

To speak with a CAP expert on this topic, contact Christina DiPasquale at or 202.481.8181.


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