Press Contact: Jon Pattee, LIRS Assistant Director for Media Relations
BALTIMORE, MD June 25, 2012 – Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) welcomes today’s Supreme Court decision to reaffirm the federal government’s responsibility for immigration by striking down three provisions of Arizona’s extreme anti-immigration law, SB 1070, and underscores the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
“We are glad to see a broad spectrum of justices come together to firmly reassert the federal role and responsibility in immigration policy,” said Linda Hartke, President and CEO of LIRS, the national organization established by Lutheran churches in the United States to serve uprooted people. “This ruling sends a strong message to states not to intrude into federal responsibility for immigration and highlights the need for Congress and the Administration to step up and overhaul our nation’s immigration laws.”
In Arizona vs. United States, the Department of Justice challenged the constitutionality of SB 1070. Today, the justices invalidated three out of four of the law’s challenged provisions, specifically, those making it a crime for immigrants without work permits to seek employment; making it a crime for immigrants to fail to carry registration documents; and authorizing the police to arrest any immigrant they believe has committed a deportable offense.
In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote, “Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration … but the State may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.”
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court allowed Arizona to implement the so-called “papers-please” provision, which allows Arizona law enforcement officers to verify the immigration status of anyone they detain if there is “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the United States without proper documentation. The Court believed that it was too soon to rule on the provision before state courts had a chance to interpret it and without more information to determine if it conflicts with federal immigration law. However, in its ruling, the Court also signaled its openness to hearing future arguments on the provision’s constitutionality.
“It’s important that the justices left the door open to hearing other challenges to SB 1070’s provisions,” said Hartke. “This means that while they let stand one of the most troubling provisions of the Arizona law – a discriminatory practice that amounts to racial profiling – they are sending a strong and clear message that the fate of the provisions depends on how it is implemented.”
LIRS was one of many organizations supporting the U.S. government in its legal challenge to SB 1070. LIRS signed on to two separate amicus briefs filed as voluntary information to the Supreme Court.
“Signing on to the amicus briefs was just a first step,” said Hartke. “Now that the Court has ruled, we commit ourselves to monitoring how the law is implemented and to continue to advocate for the passage of fair and humane immigration reform.”
LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations, and for providing services to migrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners across the United States.