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Arizona S.B. 1070: Texas Governor Says Decision is ‘One Step Forward and Two Steps Back '


The following is translated from the June 26, 2012, Spanish edition of The Huffington Post. Expertise for this story was provided by SMU Law Professor George Martinez and SMU Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin.

June 26, 2012

By Yolanda Gonzalez Gomez

In Texas, there were mixed reactions to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Arizona law SB 1070. Gov. Rick Perry called it "one step forward and two steps back," while civil rights groups said the remaining “show me your papers” provision promotes "anti-immigrant feelings and validates its proponents."

"The Court left standing an element of the law that is grounded in fear and is completely anti-Latino in sentiment," said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights Texas.

Garcia said law enforcement officials and constitutional law experts have warned it would be virtually impossible to implement the remaining provision in a "racially neutral" way.

“Everyone knows the tactic behind ‘show me your papers’ is elimination by attrition,” he said, saying it reminds him of the same policy that originated in Germany (where it was used to identify and remove Jewish people during the Holocaust).

For his part, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said the Supreme Court ruling on SB 1070, is “one step forward and two steps back — simply not good enough.”

"Today's decision by the Supreme Court to uphold Arizona's right to check the legal status of individuals within its borders is a victory not only for the people of Arizona, but for the rule of law. No state should be held hostage to a federal government that refuses to enforce the laws of the land,” he said in a statement.

This observation comes from a governor and former Republican presidential candidate who passed the first law giving illegal immigrants access to public universities in Texas 10 years ago. But in 2011 he tried to impose anti-immigrant laws when he sent the legislature a package of initiatives that did not receive enough votes for approval.

Perry said it “is bad enough that the Obama administration picks and chooses which laws it wishes to enforce, but for the United States Supreme Court to deprive states of some of those powers that are, in the words of Justice Scalia, ‘the defining characteristic[s] of sovereignty,' is insulting to the Constitution and ourright to govern ourselves.”

Rep. Silvestre Reyes, who served as chief of Border Patrol sector for more than 26 years in the El Paso area, said the Supreme Court decision highlights the need for the U.S. Congress to address and work on comprehensive immigration reform.

Reyes appealed to his fellow legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, to “do the right thing and tackle immigration reform.” He also lamented that the Republican majority legislative caucuses "do not allow us to make significant progress in a major immigration law.”

He called the ruling "a step in the right direction," but said the anticipation of "show me your papers" will hurt Latino communities.

"As an immigration lawyer for more than 26 years, I know firsthand the urgent need to reform those laws. I know that immigration reform provides national security, unifies families, helps economic prosperity and brings out those in this country who live in the shadows.”

Southern Methodist University (SMU) Dedman School of Law immigration law expert George Martinez warned that the implementation of SB 1070 could lead to major constitutional challenges on racial issues or equal protection. He said the Supreme Court’s decision will be “hotly debated.”

“The Court wants to give Arizona state courts the opportunity to interpret the statute first and then see if it responds to the decision in constitutional ways,” Professor Martinez said. “If it doesn’t, it leaves open possibilities of other constitutional challenges regarding equal protection or racial issues.” The Supreme Court decided that it was premature to conclude that this portion of the statute was preempted by federal law, and thus offered a compromise position,” heexplained.

Rick Halperin, SMU Embrey Human Rights Program director and former two-time chair of Amnesty International USA, told HuffPost he expects the remaining "show me your papers" part of the law to be invalidated.

However, the human rights activist considered the ruling “a good first step,” but said the entire SB 1070 law is “completely inhumane. Now we'll just need to see if and how Arizona complies with the Supreme Court’s ruling — and hope the entire law is eliminated.”

Halperin ruled out a possible exodus of immigrants from Arizona to Texas. “Texas doesn’t have a good reputation for how it treats minorities; it can be an unfriendly place for them,” he said. “Its attitude is similar to Arizona’s when it comes to not respecting human rights or welcoming those pursuing the American dream.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas (ACLU) said the standing discriminatory "show me your papers" provision of SB 1070 only "shows how the Supreme Court is out of touch with reality."

ACLU Texas Director Terri Burke noted that there was a similar proposal in the Texas Legislature in 2011, but a coalition of businesses, religious groups, local government and civil rights leaders made it fail because “bad initiatives damage the reputations and economies of states.”

Burke praised the Texas Legislature for recognizing that anti-immigrant laws modeled on the controversial Arizona measure are costly, divisive and un-Texan.

Krystal Gomez, ACLU Texas’ chief of defense policies, agreed. “It will be impossible to implement this law without racial profiling. People will be stopped based on how they look or sound,” she said.

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