New York Daily News

Stop stalling immig reform

- Juan Gonzalez jgonzalez@nydailynew­

The Supreme Court didn’t simply strike down three of four provisions of Arizona’s controvers­ial “Show Me Your Papers” law this week.

It sent a clear signal to any of the other 49 state legislatur­es considerin­g copycat laws that immigratio­n policy remains solely the job of the federal government.

The court’s ruling — on the heels of President Obama’s recent announceme­nt that the federal government will now permit 1.4 million undocument­ed young people to temporaril­y stay in the U.S. and work — puts even more pressure on Congress to finally pass comprehens­ive immigratio­n reform.

Only six years ago, millions of people poured into the streets of our major cities calling for such reform. They pleaded for some path to citizenshi­p for those undocument­ed people who have lived and worked here for years.

It now seems more likely than ever that Congress will finally be forced to tackle this issue next year.

Sure, eight justices, including Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s first Hispanic member, voted to uphold the one Arizona provision that opponents fear gives a green light to racial profiling. That’s the section that permits local cops to require someone they stop to prove they are in the country legally.

The Obama administra­tion, however, chose not to argue that racial profiling would result from the law.

Despite that, the court noted that “detaining individual­s solely to verify their immigratio­n status would raise constituti­onal concerns.” But given a “basic uncertaint­y” on how the law will be enforced, the court left open revisiting the provision at a later time.

“The justices are putting the onus on our civil rights groups to provide evidence that racial profiling is happening in places like Arizona and Alabama,” Cecillia Wang of the American Civil Liberties Union said. “We are confident we will be able to provide that evidence soon.”

At the same time, the court’s pivotal opinion on the other three Arizona provisions was a refreshing rebuttal of the strident national debate over immigratio­n — especially since two members of the court’s conservati­ve wing, Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined in.

The opinions rejected sections making it a state crime for undocument­ed immigrants to seek work, making it a crime to not carry immigratio­n papers, and permitting local police to arrest without a warrant anyone they believe to be illegally in the country.

“As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States,” Kennedy wrote for the majority.

“If the police stop someone based on nothing more than possible removabili­ty, the usual predicate for an arrest is absent,” he added. Only the federal government can direct such an arrest.

But the opinion went further. It even appeared to indirectly buttress President Obama’s recent decision on the Dreamers.

“Removal is a civil, not criminal, matter,” Kennedy wrote. “A principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigratio­n officials.”

That discretion, he went on to say, “embraces immediate human concerns. Unauthoriz­ed workers trying to support their families, for example, likely pose less danger than alien smugglers or aliens who commit a serious crime.”

So, this was more than three out of four against Arizona. This was a signal that the scapegoati­ng of undocument­ed immigrants must cease — that Congress needs to do its job and finally tackle immigratio­n reform.

 ?? Photo by AP ?? Protesters decried Arizona’s immigratio­n-enforcemen­t laws before Supreme Court ruling.
Photo by AP Protesters decried Arizona’s immigratio­n-enforcemen­t laws before Supreme Court ruling.
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