While the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling June 25 striking down three of four provisions of Arizona’s controversial immigration law have provided relief, leaders of the United Church of Christ urge that efforts to more fully overturn S.B. 1070 must continue.
The court let stand the fourth provision –– the controversial "show me your papers" portion of the law that allows local police to check the immigration status of people they stop, if they are considered a questionable threat.
"They still do not give full protection to our Latino and Latina neighbors in Arizona, 67 percent of whom were born there," said the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, the UCC's executive minister for Justice and Witness Ministries, in a statement on behalf of the denomination’s national officers. "The risk of racial profiling still exists, so we must continue our vigilance to ensure that laws prohibiting such actions by law enforcement are upheld."
In its ruling, the high court rejected the parts of the law that:
- Make it a state crime for illegal immigrants not to possess their federal registration cards;
- Make it a crime for illegal immigrants to work, apply for work or solicit work;
- Allow state and local police to arrest illegal immigrants without a warrant when probable cause exists that they committed "any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States."
"We will continue to press national policy-makers to cross party lines to negotiate just and comprehensive immigration reform," said Jaramillo. "Otherwise, state after state will continue to enact similar harsh legislation that separates neighbors and divides communities."
The law has become a flashpoint for the debate over how to enforce immigration in the United States and served as a blueprint for similar laws in five other states –– Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah.
Four key provisions of the law had been blocked by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton in Phoenix, a ruling that was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court in San Francisco. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, and both sides held oral arguments April 25.
Sponsors said the law was necessary because the federal government has failed to control the influx of illegal immigrants into the country, forcing states such as Arizona to grapple with the security concerns and high costs of educating and caring for illegal immigrants. They said the law simply empowers police and state officials to help enforce federal immigration laws.
President Obama called the Arizona law "misguided" and his Department of Justice sued the state. Mitt Romney, GOP presidential nominee and former Massachusetts governor, said he would drop the federal lawsuit against Arizona.
Opponents said SB 1070 unfairly criminalizes otherwise law-abiding people, opens the door for legal racial profiling of Latino/a persons in the country, and forces state law enforcement to interfere with the intricacies of federal immigration policy.
U.S. citizens of faith from various traditions –– Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Islamic –– have been serving and standing in solidarity with immigrants in their communities since the nation’s founding.
The UCC’s national officers agree.
"In the United Church of Christ, extravagant welcome is one of our core values. It is extended to all people not just some," said the church’s officers in their statement. "Gospel references to loving and caring for our neighbors is not meant for just the person next door or even the person across the state line. Our neighbors include the millions of persons around the globe. Immigration policy is an international issue which cannot simply be handed over to nine justices for final determination."