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Judgment Call

sb1070.jpgWhen the Supreme Court took up the challenge to the Affordable Care Act last month, you had to tape your eyes shut and plug you ears to avoid hearing or seeing something about it. Today, the Supreme Court is taking up a challenge to another important law with nation-wide implications, and I’m willing to bet you had no idea it was happening. The law?  SB 1070.

Sound vaguely familiar? If I told you it was the Arizona anti-immigration law that has garnered all the press over the past few years, would that help you remember? I thought so.

Arizona has lost it’s collective mind in the past few years, passing all sorts of off-the-wall legislation, but the law that has garnered the most attention was 287 (g), or the “show me your papers” portion of the law. This part of the law requires that police and other law enforcement to verify the immigration status of anyone they suspect to be here illegally. Whatever that means.

As you can imagine, anyone with darker skin (or a good tan, for that matter) was understandably concerned about what this law would allow police officers to do without probably cause. But constitutional details and legal reality has never been an impediment to the Arizona legislature, so ahead they went. Until, of course, they were stopped.

The challenge to SB 1070 is not on constructional ground, strictly speaking, but on the grounds of federal preemption of state law, which is a fancy way of saying that federal law always trumps state law. Immigration law has long been the exclusive prevue of the federal government, and the argument in today’s case (Arizona v. United States) is based on that point.

Aside from the obvious legal challenges here, the real question being decided is whether or not the United States will officially allow not only immigrants, but suspected immigrants, to become second-class citizens in Arizona. We are talking about a law that would allow police to randomly stop and harass anyone who is not lilly-white, for absolutely no cause, and demand proof of citizenship. Can you imagine the problems that could be created, for example, for a Hispanic man from New York if he took a road trip to the Grand Canyon?

It wasn’t that long ago that people with darker skin thought twice about traveling to certain parts of the country for fear that they would be randomly stopped and harassed by the police for no other reason than the color of their skin – is that really a part of our history that we want to relive?

I certainly hope it is not. Oral arguments being today at 10am.