Immigration: Local activists praise, criticize Supreme Court's Arizona ruling

Today, the United States Supreme Court rejected three of four core provisions in Arizona's controversial immigration law -- but allowed the most hotly contested to remain. It is still legal for state police to stop, interview and detain people they have "reasonable suspicion" to believe entered the country illegally, an action many Colorado immigration activists are calling "racial profiling." Click through for local reactions.

In the Supreme Court's decision, on view below, the justices agreed unanimously to permit the status-check portion to remain, instead allowing the federal government to determine which cases will actually face charges and potential deportation. The ruling places restrictions on the authority of state police, who can detain suspects but must get approval from federal authorities before holding them.

The justices disagreed on the other three considerations, all of which were struck down, including language that prohibited illegal immigrants from applying for jobs. Since Arizona's SB 1070 became a popular topic of debate, the Obama administration has also criticized the law, labeling it unconstitutional.

The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition agrees. Local activists involved with the longtime immigrant advocacy group take comfort in the Supreme Court's decision on three of Arizona's four provisions, but worry about the implications of allowing searches based on suspicion. "Obviously, we're happy to see this decision, and we feel like the court really tried to take this case on and look at it seriously," CIRC spokesman Alan Kaplan says. "But it does leave in the one provision that will make it inevitable that people are racially profiled based on the way they act and look. Our argument is very simple: It might not be unconstitutional according to the court, but while it is allowed, it will continue to open the possibility of legal discrimination."

Looking toward the future, Kaplan hopes the fourth provision will return to national attention in the near future. "We realize that this particular case was really only focused on the preemption idea -- whether U.S. law trumps Arizona law. And we know there are still two other cases out there that have not made it through to the Supreme Court yet but are on their way to challenge this provision that was upheld today," Kaplan says. "We want to see the entire thing defeated."

Page down to continue reading about reaction to the Supreme Court ruling on the Arizona immigration law, which is included below. Organizers at CIRC plan to stage a celebratory rally within the next 72 hours to praise much of the ruling and outline their remaining concerns to constituents. In the meantime, CIRC's standing is echoed across the city. "Unfortunately, the ruling upholds the worst part of the mean-spirited law," says Jordan Garcia, who represents the American Friends Service Committee's Coloradans For Immigrant Rights project. "In effect, it means that speaking with an accent or being a different color or any other form of racial profiling can trigger a huge violation of human rights. It undermines the moral fiber of the U.S. Constitution, and it allows other states the right to create similar laws."

Garcia urges action during the next election cycle. "Obama asked us to make him do it, to make him pass humane immigration reform, and as the election approaches, that's something we have to ask him to do," he says. "Creating reform on the national level is the only thing that can fix some of these issues."

Lisa Duran, executive director of Rights For All People, stands by the same call for national reform. "Given the political agenda that the majority of the Supreme Court is currently pursuing, it was too much for me hope that they would see the injustice of all four provisions," Duran says. "I'm extremely disturbed and disappointed that they upheld a provision that basically codifies racial profiling. The injustice of this mixed decision, and the example it creates for other states, really points to the need to get a nationwide, comprehensive immigration reform law enacted."

Earlier this month, activist Javier Hernandez occupied Denver's Obama For America headquarters for six days to push the President to sign an executive order halting the deportation of undocumented youth like him and fellow protester Veronica Gomez. Days later, the Obama administration made a nationwide announcement that answered many of his concerns: Those youth who do not threaten national security and adhered to a list of educational and legal requirements will no longer be deported.

Hernandez remains skeptical of both Obama's announcement and the Supreme Court's, which he and supporters of immigrant rights group Colorado Organized Resist Escalate see as partial victories. "Basically, the Supreme Court just said it was okay for racial profiling to be legal in this country," Hernandez says. "What is reasonable suspicion? That could be the clothes you're wearing, the way you speak, and that's absurd."

Read the Supreme Court's ruling here: Supreme Court Decision Arizona Immigration

More from our Immigration archive: "Undocumented youth deportation: Advocates joyful, skeptical of Obama policy change."

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Kelsey Whipple
Contact: Kelsey Whipple