Article by Victor Landa, originally posted on

It didn’t take long for the dust to kick-up and settle after the Supreme Court handed down its decision over 4 key provisions of Arizona’s SB1070 immigration law. And when it did, the landscape looked much like most people thought it would. Three of the four parts of the law in question were struck down and one was upheld. The one remaining: the “show me your papers” provision that requires local law enforcement officers to check the citizenship of the persons they detain.

So let’s break the news down to its tangible parts: What the decision says; what the spin will be; what it means for electoral politics.

What the decision says:

There are four parts to this –

  • the part that was upheld is the provision that grants local police the authority to check the immigration/citizenship status of the people they detain.
  • the parts that were struck down are
    • the provision that made it a crime to not carry immigration papers
    • the provision that gave police the authority to arrest people on suspicion of being undocumented, without a warrant
    • the provision that made it a crime for undocumented people to hold or seek a job
Think of it as the Court telling Arizona (and the rest of the 50 state governments) that while their police may question people’s citizenship status, they may not infringe on the Federal Government’s jurisdiction when it comes to the larger aspects of immigration law. And keep this in mind, only the Federal Government can deport people, state governments don’t have that authority. So all a state can do is check the immigration status and either detain a person found to be undocumented or pass the person along to federal custody. Keep in mind as well that the present administration has been deporting people at a record pace.

On the other hand, the law does not touch on the question of racial profiling. It’s a major concern to many Latinos, but it was not a concern to the Justices of the Supreme Court because the matter was not brought up as part of the arguments of this specific case.

The Spin

Look for each side to call this a win. I know, that’s not very deep analysis, but the spin isn’t going to be deep either. There is enough ground for both sides to feel vindicated, so look for that.

Beyond the spin.

This is where things will be deep and interesting. There’re a slew of states watching and waiting to take their cue from this decision, and they’ll now feel free to move forward on legislation that follows the Supreme Court ruling. Those states that have already passed Arizona-type laws (think Georgia, Alabama, etc..) will more than likely retro-fit their laws to better fit today’s ruling. But even then, there are suits in process that challenge the “show me your papers” provision as infringements on civil rights, so we haven’t heard the last of this.

Politics (election)

This decision comes in the wake of a surge in Latino enthusiasm for President Obama, and it reinforces some of the President’s pro-immigration stump messages. On the Romney side, this isn’t good news. Romney has been an ardent wholesale deportation advocate; a supporter of SB1070, calling it a model for other states to follow; and this decision de-legitimizes his immigration position.

Specifically in Arizona, the Justices may have handed that state to Obama. Most Latinos in Arizona will feel targeted by this decision. We’ve already seen how the passage of the law rallied forces to recall and defeat the law’s author, Russell Pearce. I imagine many Latinos will also feel the need to get an ID that proves their citizenship, most easily obtained at the DMV, where they can also easily register to vote… It’s almost as if the Supreme Court funneled potential Latino voters to register.

NewsTaco is most interested in knowing what you have to say about today’s Supreme Court’s decision. So let’s  get the conversation started…


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