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Supreme Court immigrant decision draws mixed reaction in L.A.

June 25, 2012 |  2:28 pm

Immigration advocates and attorneys gave a mixed response Monday to the Supreme Court decision that struck down most of Arizona’s law targeting illegal immigrants but upheld a clause that allowed police to stop, question and detain immigrants based on their legal status.

Most praised the Supreme Court for striking down three of the four provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070 but said they believed the upheld “show me your papers” provision would encourage racial profiling.

“If you read the law, there’s no limitation on how long the person is held, no basis for how the person is stopped. There’s a very thin prohibition of racial profiling, but there’s no other way to follow the provision,” said Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF.

Saenz added that the lack of limitations would make it easy for an untrained police officer to rely on his assumptions and stereotypes to enforce the law.

Melissa Keaney, a staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center based in Los Angeles, said Monday’s decision was just the “first chapter in this very long book of unconstitutionality in this law.” The National Immigration Law Center and MALDEF will be presenting future litigation against the remaining provision.

The decision “sends a really important message to states and localities. States that have chosen to [go] the path of Arizona, for the most part, the Supreme Court has said, ‘No, that’s unconstitutional,’” Keaney said.

In 2011, five states -– Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah -– passed similar immigration legislation. Federal courts have mostly blocked key provisions of those laws.

Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck spoke out earlier this year in support of giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Two years ago, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa supported a boycott of Arizona by the city of Los Angeles, calling the law “unpatriotic and unconstitutional.”

"I am heartened by today’s Supreme Court decision to strike down key elements of Arizona’s controversial SB 1070,” Villaraigosa said in a statement. “The Supreme Court rightly upheld the bedrock constitutional principle that the federal government alone has the power to regulate immigration. It is clear that the Obama Administration and the Department of Justice were right to challenge this law.”

Reshma Shamasunder, executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, said California must lead the nation in immigration reform. The California Immigrant Policy Center is supporting the Trust Act, which will allow local governments to circumvent Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s requests to detain people for deportation unless they have serious or violent felony convictions.

“This is about local law enforcement unfairly targeting people who come from minority communities, and I think for a Californian that would be completely unacceptable –- that would entail most of us in the state being subject to stops,” Shamasunder said.

Ricardo Munez, 23, heard the news of the decision in the early morning when his friend woke him up to lock the door behind him. Munez had just gotten back from a monthly leadership meeting for the California Dream Network.

“He was telling me on the way out and I was like, ‘Oh, my God. This is going to be hell,’” said Munez.


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