What’s At Stake For Young People and America With Supreme Court’s SB 1070 Case
Today, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on Arizona’s SB 1070, a broad and strict anti-immigrant law in a decision that will help determine what role state governments are allowed to play in immigration law.
Four major provisions of the law will be under the judges’ review, including the “show me your papers” section that allows local law enforcement to inquire about the immigration status of individuals they believe to be in the country without papers, as well as a section that gives them the authority to arrest those individuals.
The final ruling, expected this summer, will have very serious implications on states’ enforcement of immigration law at the local level. The provisions that essentially sanction racial profiling by allowing local law enforcement to use their own discretion when deciding to inquire about a person’s immigration status will undoubtedly disproportionately impact immigrants, their families, and communities of color regardless of their immigration status.
While Arizona was the first to enact a law this extreme, it is alone. Elected officials in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah have followed Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s lead. In total, legislators have passed 164 other anti-immigrant laws nationwide since 2010, varying in their reach to control immigration at the state and local levels. These laws range from mandating that businesses use the error-prone employment verification system called E-Verify to some that impose restrictions on driver’s license eligibility.
The patchwork of immigration laws that has emerged in the past two years has underlined the urgency for congressional and administrative action on this critical civil and human rights issue. Most recently in 2010, the 111th Congress failed to pass the federal DREAM Act, a bill that would have created a pathway to U.S. citizenship for qualified undocumented youth through the completion of two years of higher education or military service. Immigration issues have since remained in a fierce political gridlock, despite Americans’ overwhelming support for legalization and relief for young immigrants and their families.
How SB 1070 Made It to the Supreme Court
In a rare move—possibly to deter more states from following Arizona’s example—the Department of Justice sued the state of Arizona on July 6, 2010 to block four key provisions of the law, arguing that the state had unconstitutionally waded into immigration policy reserved for the federal government.
“The Constitution and the federal immigration laws do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country,”the department’s lawyers said in a press briefing. “The immigration framework set forth by Congress and administered by federal agencies reflects a careful and consideredbalance of national law enforcement, foreign relations, and humanitarian concerns—concerns that belong to the nation as a whole, not a single state.”
The Justice Department also argued that SB 1070 undermines and diverts resources from the enforcement priorities mandated by Congress, which focus on removing individuals who have been convicted of serious crimes. Arizona’s broad scope makes it so that anyone who comes in contact with local law enforcement—for something as insignificant as jaywalking or driving with a broken taillight—becomes subject for removal.
The most controversial pieces of SB 1070 were temporarily barred from taking effect in the federal district and appeals courts, with the courts agreeing with the Justice Department’s case that the four provisions in question wandered into policy territory generally reserved solely for the federal government. Arizona officials have fought those lower court decisions and appealed the case to the Supreme Court.
The following four provisions are the measures under judicial review:
The Four Key Provisions In Question
- The “Show Me Your Papers” provision, which would force any person—whether citizen or undocumented immigrant—to provide government-issued identification to a law enforcement officer upon request if the officer has “reasonable suspicion” to believe they are in the country unlawfully. (Section 2(b))
- The simple act of not being able to provide your “papers” detailing your immigration status when asked, at any time, by law enforcement would be a crime in Arizona. (Section 3)
- Working in the state of Arizona as an undocumented immigrant would, for the first time in immigration policy, be considered a crime. (Section 5(c))
- Law enforcement officials would be able to arrest anyone without a warrant if they were suspected of committing a crime that would qualify them for deportation. (Section 6)
What This Means for Youth
While key provisions of Arizona’s law were blocked before they could take effect, there has been some analysis on what impact SB 1070 has already had on families and communities in the state.
Much of this is simply by virtue of the fact thatfamilies are composed of mixed immigration statuses. At least 9 million people in the United States belong to “mixed families” that include at least one adult who is undocumented and at least one who was born in the U.S.
DREAM Act-eligible youth, as well as many U.S.-born young people, are members of these “mixed status” families. Aggressive enforcement of existing federal immigration law, which would be facilitated by laws like SB 1070, would only further exasperate the already-high number of deportations and family separations, which directly impact these young people.
Even when immigration policy is not crafted to directly impact the children of the undocumented, they also suffer. Laws like SB 1070 not only attempt to make earning a living as difficult as possible for undocumented workers, they also make life for their children (brought here through no fault of their own) targets of forced hard-knock living.
When undocumented parents are shut out from getting a job, their ability to provide for their families with essentials like clothes, food, and clothes is undercut. And they are also forced to make unique choices concerning their children’s education, as their status often poses as a threat. These forced choices can include yanking children out of school to reallocate to immigrant-friendly states.
Children of the undocumented are already put at an educational disadvantage by virtue of their parents’ status. According to an analysis of 2004 survey data from of the Immigration and Intergenerational Mobility in Metropolitan Los Angeles, about 52 percent of those with immigrant fathers who naturalized were able to receive a college education, compared to about 43 percent [PDF] of those whose fathers were still legal permanent residents, and 13.6 percent of those whose fathers were undocumented.
The varying degrees of educational-attainment levels demonstrate that even without harsh laws like SB 1070 in place, the education of U.S.-born and undocumented children is affected.
With Arizona-style legislation, these disparities in education attainment, which often makes the crucial difference between dropping out of high school or leaving with a degree in hand, will only further exacerbate the preexisting inequities.
In another report released by the University of Arizona called “Left Back: The Impact of SB 1070 on Arizona’s Youth,” [PDF] 70 interviews with educators, parents, and students in seven different high schools revealed that a significant number of immigrants left or considered leaving the state of Arizona when SB 1070 was passed. With the loss of friends and family, young immigrants suffered socially and academically. A counselor at one high school in Pima County who specialized in working with students who lived without their parents reported her caseload doubled after SB 1070’s passage.
When mixed-status families live under the constant fear of being torn asunder by laws like SB 1070, the children of those families—whether they are American-born citizens or not—are also negatively affected. Access to education is severely undermined when head of households in mixed-status families have to choose between risking being detained on a short trip to their corner grocery store or uprooting their children from school to live in a less discriminatory state like Arizona.
In other cases, it’s the children of the undocumented who have to uproot themselves from their own dreams to pursue a higher education.
Born to parents from Mexico who held visas but not work authorization, [MISSING FIRST NAME] Yesenia dropped out after her freshmen year at Arizona State University, shelving her dreams of becoming a journalist. The uncertainty surrounding the possible deportation that befell her mixed-status family, coupled with the slowed work flow experienced by her carpenter father, made it nearly impossible for Yesenia to continue her pursuits in academia. In the end, Yesenia moved back home, picked up two jobs, and began taking classes at her local community college.
Pathways to education are already narrowed for the children of the undocumented without restrictive immigration policy like Arizona’s SB 1070. But with it, young Americans and undocumented youth are unfairly denied the access to education which often servers as a launch pad for many toward upward mobility. By denying access, we academically stunt an untapped resource of this nation’s workforce.
The Department of Justice released the findings from an investigationthey led on Arizona’s Maricopa County’s Sheriff’s Department in December 2011 that found widespread discrimination against Latinos by police officers. According to the findings, Latinos were between four to nine times more likely to be pulled over by a police officer.
Even with key provisions of the Arizona law blocked, police officers were still more likely to stop Latinos, including when the arrest appeared to be a violation of the Fourth Amendment which prohibits stops without adequate cause.
The investigation highlights intense racial tensions, likely related to the immigration status of individuals, and sheds an important light on local law enforcements’ aggressive practice of targeting Latinos. Such practices could be intensified in Maricopa County and replicated in other parts of the country without intervention from the Supreme Court.
Increased diversity, as well as a growing number of youth in states that have considered laws like SB 1070, will play a crucial role in how these laws play out in practice. Consider Arizona, where 26.3 percent of youth between 5 to 17 were Hispanic and 21.2 percent were African American.
Alabama, another state that passed its own version of a law aimed to control immigrants, has experienced growthamong constituencies of color as well, particularly among its Latino population. It’s also a younger group: the median age for Latinos in the state is 24.8, compared to the median age of whites at 41.2.
To promote a nationwide patchwork of immigration laws that sanction racial profiling creates a hostile environment that will impact emerging constituencies, including young people.
Eduardo Garcia is advocacy manager at Campus Progress. Follow him @itseddie. Naima Ramos-Chapman is an associate editor at Campus Progress.
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