As the Supreme Court approaches a decision on Arizona's immigration law, Latinos have much to fear. The Court will decide whether states have the legal authority to make immigration policy or whether immigration is a federal issue. Legal experts believe the Court will rule in favor of the Arizona immigration law SB 1070, that requires law enforcement members to check the citizenship status of anyone they believe appears to be an undocumented immigrant.
Such a ruling will be a disaster for Latinos in the U.S.: it will create an unprotected dangerous and fearful environment for Latinos, stripping them of their human right not to be searched and seized without a warrant.
If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Arizona, other states will have the legal right to perform unwarranted search and seizures on anyone they believe is an illegal immigrant. Opponents have argued that police have no legal right to perform these procedures without probable cause. But, states claim they do have probable cause; they just have no warrant.
According to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, illegal immigration is a crime equatable to immigrants rioting violently. If immigrants were throwing violent protests, the state would have probable cause to ask for immigration papers. Kennedy argues that the same concept applies to illegal immigration: both are continuous violent crimes that the state needs to defend against.
That said, the problem with checking immigration status of suspected illegal immigrants is that the police will inevitably detain innocent people, who may not have the proper citizenship papers on them. Detention becomes illegal when police target Latinos or any other race. Under the Constitution, all races are equal before the law. No race should have to provide proof of citizenship when others do not. With the majority of Latinos being illegal immigrants, police are bound to detain the wrong people.
Due to the laws requirements and the ramifications of the Supreme Court's decision, the situation is precarious. Law enforcement officials cannot choose to ignore the law, and discrimination suits will be difficult to prove.
If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Arizona, having probable will legally bound officers to investigate. If they do not investigate suspicious looking people, the police can be sued. They can also be sued for not enforcing SB 1070.
But, this article that allows Arizona residents to sue officers for not enforcing SB 1070 cancels the article that allows people to sue police for using racial profiling to check immigration status. If it came down to it, law enforcement officials could simply argue that a person looked suspicious of illegal immigration, and the officers were in a position of having to do their job.
In 2010, when Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) issued HB 2162 which forbid law enforcement from using racial profiling, HB 2162 had little power.
Without legal safeguards to protect against discrimination, Latinos become vulnerable to racial profiling and illegal detention. A Supreme Court decision in favor of Arizona will pave the way for law enforcement and state governments to perform legal search and seizures against racial groups, only worsening racial discrimination in America.