North Carolinians Called to Stand For Immigrant Justice after Supreme Court Ruling on Arizona’s SB1070

For those on the ground in the migrants’ rights movement, this week’s Supreme Court decision means that we still have much work to do to achieve true justice for our communities. On Monday morning the Supreme Court of the United States announced its decision on Arizona’s SB1070, overturning major portions of the law but upholding the notorious section 2B–which requires law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of anyone they arrest or detain and have “reasonable suspicion” to believe is unlawfully present in the United States. Section 2B– popularly known as the “Show me your papers” provision –has been widely criticized for mandating racial profiling. The Supreme Court struck down the three other major provisions of SB 1070, which would have made it a crime for undocumented immigrants to not apply for a registration card and carry it at all times (section 3); made it a crime for unauthorized immigrants to apply for, solicit or perform work (section 5C); and authorize law enforcement officials to arrest immigrants without a warrant if they have “probable cause” to believe they have committed an offense that makes them deportable, even if they are lawfully present in the U.S. (section 6). On the one hand, the Court’s decision sends a strong message to states considering copycat legislation, like North Carolina, that the federal government, NOT state governments hold the power to author and enforce immigration law; however, the decision does not address the existing immigration enforcement crisis pursued and implemented by our federal government. These programs are part of an anti-immigrant policy of “attrition through enforcement”, which attempts to make life so hostile and unlivable for immigrants that they opt to self-deport. Federal support and amplification of deportation through Secure Communities and the 287(g) programs have fostered attrition and created an environment in which states like Arizona feel able to take extreme enforcement measures against immigrants.
While policy and advocacy groups are rightfully celebrating that three provisions of SB 1070 were struck down and that the ruling leaves open the possibility to overturn section 2B with pending litigation from civil rights organizations, the ruling is not as celebrated by those most directly impacted by these laws. The many consequences of unjust immigration enforcement are raw for those who continue to live in fear of being separated from family members and their communities. They know firsthand the impact of racial, ethnic and religious profiling, which they expect section 2b to amplify, and its resultant deportations. An organizer from the grassroots organization Puente Arizona said to the press Monday afternoon, “We do not call it a victory. People are very upset and confused. They are scared to see what will come up.” Rather, the cause for celebration for migrant communities and their allies in Arizona this week is their ongoing struggle for self determination based on human dignity and human rights. Pro-migrant organizers on the ground in Arizona and across the country have fearlessly stood up to racism and xenophobia with the mantra “We will not comply”. This grassroots movement will remain vigilant as section 2B comes into effect. They will the monitor implementation of the law by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who heartily announced to the press shortly after the ruling, “After more than two years of legal challenges, the heart of SB 1070 can now be implemented in accordance with the U.S. Constitution.” In Arizona, the migrant’s right movement will not stop fighting until SB1070 is repealed and the full rights of immigrants are respected.
In North Carolina, this ruling and its aftermath holds particular significance. Members of the General Assembly’s Select Committee on Immigration that met earlier this year said they would wait on the Supreme Court ruling before trying to move forward on any kind of Arizona copycat legislation. Based on this week’s decision, it is extremely unwise of them to pursue it. However, it is also important to recognize that immigrants in North Carolina already face extreme persecution. Secure Communities, a mandatory biometrics program that merges FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement databases when a person is being booked in a jail, no matter what the allegations against them, has been implemented in all 100 North Carolina counties. Since November 2008, 5,731 immigrants have been deported under the Secure Communities program. North Carolina also has 7 active 287(g) agreements, which enable local police to enforce immigration law. Since 2006, 18,922 immigrants have been identified for removal under 287(g) Memoranda of Understanding. Consequently, undocumented immigrants in North Carolina are subjected to a deportation apparatus with or without a SB1070 copycat.
The messages North Carolinians of conscience need to take away from the Arizona experience are first and foremost, to fight back against any policies that erode the civil rights of immigrants in our state and to organize for nothing less than full rights for all. Locally, that will likely mean fighting harder to end Secure Communities and the 287(g) program. This ruling is an opportunity for us to build a stronger, more vibrant movement; to expose what is happening to immigrants in their everyday lives under North Carolina’s attrition tactics and to build bridges with other communities experiencing oppression; and lastly, to prepare our communities for the struggles ahead, making it known that we will not allow bigotry and xenophobia in our state. At this critical moment, it is the responsibility of all North Carolinians of conscience to stand on the right side of history and act in solidarity with targeted communities. We are tasked to provide support to those at the center of the movement with resources, time, and action. As we have learned from the civil rights movement, it’s a long walk to justice but justice will indeed prevail.
1 ( , pg. 4)
2 (