PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona officials declared victory Monday after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the “show me your papers” provision of the state’s immigration law, while immigrant rights groups vowed to prevent that part of the law from ever taking effect.
While it struck down parts of the law, the court preserved a section that requires police to check the status of someone they suspect is in the U.S. illegally, but took the teeth out of it by prohibiting officers from arresting people on minor immigration charges.
The justices also added that the immigration status check could be subject to additional legal challenges. Critics have argued that it allows police officers to racially profile people.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer called the decision a victory for all Americans, saying that the law could now be enforced and that any officers who violate a person’s civil rights will be held accountable.
Immigration rights groups said they were surprised and disappointed by the court’s decision, and planned to ask police how they intend to enforce the law and ask lower courts to block implementation of the surviving part of the law.
“The opinion invites the challenges that we are bringing. It’s going to cause racial profiling. It will cause prolonged detentions,” said Linton Joaquin of the National Immigration Law Center, one of the groups pushing a separate challenge to the Arizona law.
Puente Arizona director Carlos Garcia said President Barack Obama can put an end to this by having federal immigration officers stop working with local police.
Arizona passed the law in 2010, with lawmakers arguing that that federal government wasn’t adequately preventing illegal immigration. The Obama administration sued to block it, saying that enforcing immigration laws was a federal responsibility.
Federal courts had refused to let the four key provisions take effect.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion for the court that was unanimous on allowing the status check to go forward. The court, however, was divided on striking down the other portions.
They were the sections that required all immigrants to obtain or carry immigration registration papers, made it a state criminal offense for an illegal immigrant to seek work or hold a job and allowed police to arrest suspected illegal immigrants without warrants.
Arizona has spent almost $3 million defending the law for the last two years, the Arizona Republic reported Monday.
Standing outside of a Home Depot in central Phoenix, Carlos Beltran was looking for day labor work. Beltran, who was born in the U.S. but whose parents are illegal immigrants, said he was glad to hear the court struck down most of the law.
“We can still be here today, find a job and go home and tell our wives we have something to eat tonight,” he said.
With the ruling, Beltran said, the potential for racial profiling will now become worse. “I don’t want to have my dad afraid of looking for a job. He has four kids. They shouldn’t be afraid of trying to make a living,” he said.
Five states — Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah — have adopted variations on Arizona’s law. Parts of those laws also are on hold pending the outcome of the Supreme Court case.
A lawyer who challenged Indiana’s law said Monday’s decision showed that his state’s law was unconstitutional. The law gave local police power to arrest anyone who has had certain actions filed against them by immigration authorities.
Ken Falk with the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana said the law goes further than the Arizona statute because it allows police to arrest immigrants who haven’t committed a crime.
State officials said they will review the decision and advise lawmakers of any changes needed in the 2011 law.
Associated Press writer Mark Sherman in Washington and Terry Tang contributed to this report.
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