By Robert Schlesinger |
U.S. v. Arizona is a landmark case not just because of the constitutional issues related to who regulates and enforces immigration, but because of its civil rights implications, too. With the lawsuit, the attorney general and the president are taking a stand against racial profiling. They are showing that when injustice is condoned by individual states in express violation of the Constitution, the federal government can and will take action to protect the rights of its people.
Sixty-eight members of Congress signed on to an amicus brief to say that we are standing with the president to defend those citizens who will be targeted by this law that was intended to target non-citizens.
We are saying that we don't believe you can tell a Puerto Rican citizen from a Costa Rican noncitizen just by looking at him or her or listening to their voice. We believe that the way you dress and the shoes you wear are not probable cause for questioning or arrest. We are saying that when our nation targets law enforcement efforts at someone's appearance or what neighborhood they live in or what job they do, it is not living up to our nation's basic ideals.
The attorney general and President Obama are also taking a stand for noncitizens. They are saying that we will take a different approach to immigration as a nation—one of the proudest foundations of our society—and make it a safe, legal, and orderly process and avoid the pitfalls of abuse, division, and political opportunism that have been fostered by our broken immigration system.
And what is at the heart of the Supreme Court case is that the solutions must come at the federal level. The Constitution makes that clear. In states like Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia and across the country where they are flirting with or embracing Arizona-style laws, we have also seen their senators turn their backs on efforts to craft bipartisan immigration reform that gets control of our borders. Both John McCain, with whom I worked closely for years, and Jon Kyl were once at the table with Democrats trying to work this out. Now the two Senators from Arizona and almost all of their Republican colleagues are absent from the debate or have adopted the failed border and deportation-only approach.
As the country has been made painfully aware in recent weeks, racial profiling can have deadly consequences. In the type of state-sanctioned racial profiling under review by the court, lives may not be lost directly but they will certainly be changed forever.
We deported or removed more than 46,000 parents of U.S. citizens in just six months last year and could put an estimated 15,000 U.S. citizens in foster care because of a deported parent in the next five years. Think of the cost in lives, in tax-dollars, in families torn apart, and in futures derailed.
This case is only one small part of solving that dilemma but it is an important step. We can turn back the tide of laws that specifically target immigrants for harassment and that also end up harming so many others. We can show that we need a Supreme Court that stands with the people and with our laws and will not turn back the clock on hard-won rights. And we can set a tone for the future where the color of someone's face or the dust on their work boots does not make them a target.
About Luis Gutierrez U.S. Representative
Jon Feere Legal Policy Analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies
Russell Pearce Former Arizona State Senator and Author of SB 1070
Jeanne Butterfield Special Counsel at the Raben Group
Raúl Grijalva U.S. Representative
Tamar Jacoby President of ImmigrationWorks USA