Supreme Court Decision on Arizona: Unfinished Business

June 25 2012


Julian Teixeira
(202) 776-1812

Ruling leaves door open to racial profiling and community intimidation in Arizona

Washington—Today, the United States Supreme Court issued a mixed ruling in Arizona v. United States, striking down most of the provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070, an anti-immigrant law passed in 2010. The Court struck down Section 3, criminalizing failure to carry alien registration documents; Section 5(C), criminalizing the seeking of work without authorization; and Section 6, which allows warrantless arrests when an officer has “probable cause” to believe that a person has committed a crime that makes that person removable from the United States. However, the Court upheld Section 2(B), the racial profiling provision known as “show me your papers,” requiring state and local police to attempt to determine the immigration status of any person lawfully stopped, detained, or arrested if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is unlawfully present.

“We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down most of the elements of this offensive law and reaffirm that the federal government has primary responsibility on immigration,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR (National Council of La Raza), the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S. “We remain deeply troubled, though, that the Supreme Court allowed the heart of the problem in SB 1070—legitimizing racial profiling—to stand, and failed to decisively remove the bull’s eye from the backs of Arizona’s Latinos, leaving it to future lawsuits to address. We fear this part of the decision will open the floodgates to the harassment, abuse, and intimidation of our community in what is already the most hostile place for Hispanics in the country.”

Every sector of mainstream America was represented among those filing briefs in opposition to Arizona’s SB 1070. Over 300 organizations joined briefs supporting the legal challenge against this law, including 68 members of Congress; 44 former state attorneys general; dozens of cities and towns; labor, business, and civil rights leaders; law enforcement experts; former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; former commissioners of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service; prominent religious institutions; and numerous faith, labor, and immigrants’ rights organizations.

“The passage of SB 1070 in Arizona and its copycats in Alabama, Georgia, and elsewhere has outraged and electrified the Latino community, and today’s ruling will spur even greater action,” said Murguía. “We will continue the fight in the legislatures, in the courts, and in the voting booth. Thirty-one states have declined to follow SB 1070’s path because these types of laws are costly, ineffective, and discriminatory, and the evidence on that remains unchanged. The Supreme Court ruling does not give states a green light to advance copycat measures. Ultimately Congress bears responsibility to pass legislation which will fix our nation’s broken immigration system, and we must compel them to act to deliver the real solutions our country needs.”

“NCLR will work with its network of nearly 300 affiliated community-based organizations to provide information about the decision, educate the community about defending their civil rights, and intensify voter engagement,” concluded Murguía.

NCLR—the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States—works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans. For more information on NCLR, please visit or follow along on Facebook and Twitter.


Issues: Arizona’s SB 1070, Border Security and Immigration, Immigration
Geography:California, Far West, Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, Texas