- Message Guidance: Supreme Court Arizona v U.S. Case
- Sample Messaging on S.B. 1070 and Similar Laws
- Immigration Policy Solutions
On Monday, June 25, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Arizona v. United States, a challenge to the constitutionality of Arizona’s controversial racial profiling law, SB 1070. This memo offers guidance on talking about the decision with a variety of audiences.
In talking about this case, our goal is to bridge multiple audiences:
- Communities affected by the decision, to whom we must explain the real world implications;
- Our base, whom we want to rally against SB 1070 and negative parts of the decision;
- The Obama Administration, on whom we’re calling to oppose implementation of the remaining provision of the law; and
- States and localities, who we want to strongly discourage from adopting copycat legislation.
The recommendations below are applicable across audiences, with different emphasis for different audiences—e.g., rallying the base vs. deterring copycats.
Main Messaging Themes
- This is a strong decision that for the most part rejects Arizona’s overreach. By a 5-3 margin the Supreme Court ruled that much of Arizona’s attempt to take federal law into its own hands is unconstitutional. And it largely affirms that this type of law violates our Constitution, as well as our national values and national interests.
- But it leaves in place, for now, one dangerous provision – Section 2(B) – that inevitably will lead to racial profiling and harassment of people based on what they look like and how they speak, even if they were born in America. The Court’s decision to postpone a final decision on this provision was a grave mistake, because the rights of Arizonans will be violated while this issue is resolved. Meanwhile, Congress can act now to pass the End Racial Profiling Act to protect everyone here from this ineffective practice that flies in the face of our values.
- However, we are confident that all of this law and others like it will ultimately be struck down as discriminatory racial profiling, as preempted by federal law, or both. This decision should serve as a warning to politicians considering going down Arizona’s path.
- States and localities are increasingly rejecting these laws as divisive, expensive, unworkable, and contrary to our values; they are increasingly moving toward commonsense approaches that uphold our values and move us forward together.
- The Justices who would have upheld this entire law as constitutional are badly out of touch with the reality of how it will work in Arizona’s communities. They failed to consider the harm this law will cause to so many individuals and communities. We are confident that this provision will eventually be struck down, but that’s not enough for the person who will be unlawfully stopped tomorrow.
Regarding SB 1070 and similar laws:
These laws violate our national values and national interests, as well as our Constitution. They promote racial profiling and deny equal justice. They are bad for business and our economic recovery, as they’ve bankrupted farmers and manufacturers and driven away corporations. They are divisive and expensive, drawing boycotts, protests, and lawsuits. They divert precious law enforcement resources away from public safety. They are against what America stands for. Click here for more sample messaging about SB 1070 and its copycats.
Regarding Racial Profiling:
Racial profiling is an ineffective and harmful practice that undermines our basic values. Laws like SB 1070 recklessly promote the practice - the court should have recognized this and rejected this provision. We will continue to work to eliminate racial profiling and Congress can step up by passing the End Racial Profiling Act now.
Today’s decision ignores the racial profiling and abuse of citizens and immigrants alike that are already happening in places like Maricopa County, Arizona. That county's Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, has been sued by the U.S. Justice Department for a “pattern of unlawful discrimination” against Latino Arizonans that includes discriminatory and unjustified stops, searches, and detentions. Without accountability to equal justice and sound law enforcement practices, abuses like Arpaio's are likely to multiply in Arizona, Alabama, and other parts of the country. With the Supreme Court ignoring that reality, the Justice Department must expand its work to ensure equal justice that serves all Americans.
With today’s ruling the Justices took a step away from ensuring that law enforcement officials are held to the constitutional standards we value as Americans—protecting public safety and the rights of all. We need only look to Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona and other public officials like him who have abused their power to understand why these laws violate our national values and interests, as well as our Constitution. In Maricopa County, the U.S. Justice Department found that officers were five to nine times more likely to stop Latino drivers than their non-Latino counterparts, for reasons like not speaking English well. That's racial profiling, not the fair enforcement of laws based on evidence that Americans expect and deserve.
Regarding Commonsense Solutions:
The Supreme Court has affirmed that the federal government is responsible for immigration laws – Congress needs to live up to this responsibility now. Voters will hold them accountable. Our country needs commonsense immigration policy that unifies us – only Congress can do this. We need an overhaul of our flawed immigration policies. We need it now.
States, cities, and towns around the country are turning away from these laws and toward commonsense approaches that uphold our nation’s values and move us forward together. That means national immigration policy reform that creates accountability and a pathway to citizenship. It means laws that promote public safety and uphold due process and equal justice. And it means integrating new Americans into our economic engine and social fabric, including through English language learning. Increasing numbers of states are rejecting divisive laws, and voters are rejecting politicians that promote them. Click here for examples of promising federal, state, and local policies.
Regarding the Supreme Court:
The Supreme Court majority was correct in holding that immigration policy is a federal responsibility. But those justices failed to understand the harm and disruption that Arizona’s racial profiling provision, Section 2(B), will inevitably do to everyday Arizonans, families, and communities—both citizens and immigrants.
The Justices who would have permanently upheld all aspects of this law are badly out of touch with the reality in Arizona and other parts of our country. States and localities are rightly turning away from these laws as divisive, costly, and ineffective. States from Mississippi to Nebraska have rejected Arizona-style laws, determining that they are not in line with their values and are the wrong approach to immigration issues.
This guidance builds on suggested messaging from the ACLU and Progressive States Network, and America’s Voice as well as a coalition of organizations working with America’s Voice and others.