Immigration law reform producing a wave of alarm for many immigrants

Dave Masko's picture

COOS BAY, Ore. – With the Supreme Court set to hand down its decision on Arizona’s tough new immigration law in June, some local legal immigrants are both dazed and confused about the “language” of this pending decision.

Other than the fact that the Supreme Court is taking on Arizona’s controversial immigration law, some local Mexican immigrants here say they’re confused about what’s going to happen next in their quest to become citizens. “We don’t understand what will happen if the Supreme Court sides with Arizona. How will this impact us becoming citizens,” ask local Coos Bay immigrants Oscar and Maria, and Tony and Grace. In turn, these couples say "they're very worried about the nation’s immigration law" now in the national spotlight after the Supreme Court began hearing arguments about Arizona’s tough new immigration law last month. For instance, they point to a statement by Cecillia Wang, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project for the American Civil Liberties Union, that’s appeared in both West and East coast newspapers recently, including The New York Times. Wang is very clear in her view that states: “Arizona’s law was passed to force Latinos to leave. Officers are required to detain someone they 'suspect' is undocumented, and the only way to do that is based on skin color and accent. That is racial profiling.”

Racial profiling claims against law

Wang writes how “the Supreme Court argument on Arizona’s ‘show me your papers’ law, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the government’s lawyer were wrong to suggest that the case didn’t involve racial profiling.”

In turn, these local Coos Bay immigrants are hopeful after Wang also noted how “no state passed such a law this year because it’s clear how un-American racial profiling is. It is bad for business, law enforcement and everyone’s basic rights. And it undermines our society’s commitment to fairness and equality.”

The Arizona immigration law was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010. In turn, President Barrack Obama and his administration posed a legal challenge over the acts constitutionality and compliance with civil rights law; while also asking for a high court injunction against enforcement of the Arizona law.

Arizona has sought, unsuccessfully to date, to reverse that decision in the federal appeals courts. Thus, the decision to either keep or stop Arizona’s new tough immigration law now rests with the Supreme Court that’s set to decide on its constitutionality next month.

Will the high court overturn Arizona’s tough immigration law?

While the Supreme Court appears ready to uphold parts of Arizona’s controversial law that President Obama and local Coos Bay immigrants Oscar, Maria, Tony and Grace say they oppose; there’s real concern that immigration could become a real issue during the president’s re-election with the GOP pushing hard on immigration reform that will make becoming an American citizen that much harder for the estimated 11 million immigrants in the U.S. today.

For instance, The New York Times reported recently how “President Obama is clashing with the highest court in the land” over immigration reform.

In turn, the Times reported last week how the Supreme Court “seemed ready to uphold the most controversial provision of S.B. 1070, a tough immigration law that Arizona passed in 2010. The provision in question requires police officers to determine the immigration status of any person they ‘reasonably’ suspect is an illegal immigrant, which critics (including the president's Justice Department) say will encourage racial profiling of Latinos. And even liberal members of the court had trouble swallowing the Obama administration's argument that Arizona was usurping the federal government's right to set immigration policy.”

Thus, the Times asked: “Is Obama facing a Supreme Court disaster?”

While the Supreme Court announced that it will hand down its decision on Arizona’s immigration in June, there’s real concern, says Oscar and other local Mexican immigrants, that “we could lose the Arizona case come June, and then what? Will we have to wait longer for green cards, and citizenship? You see for many of us, we simply don’t understand what’s being said about this on TV and online. We’re eager to know more,” added Oscar during a May 8 Huliq interview at the Port of Coos Bay where this immigrant laborer works.

In turn, The New York Times recently quoted Josh Gerstein at Politico who explained how “Latinos and immigration-rights groups are no fans of the administration’s deportation policies, but a win for Arizona could produce a wave of alarm in Latino communities.

Also, the Times explained how the Obama administration argued that “Arizona had infringed on the federal government’s purview” to decide on immigration law as a federal and not a decision for the individual states.

Supreme Court hears Arizona’s claims to get tough on immigrants

Although there were small groups of protesters opposing Arizona’s controversial immigration law during hearings last month outside the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., most of America’s estimated 11 million immigrants are staying under the radar, and “not wanting to be named,” explains Coos Bay immigrant Oscar, “because we don’t want the government after us.”

In turn, The New York Times reported how the Supreme Court has heard it’s “oral arguments over the constitutionality of S.B. 1070” – a controversial and somewhat harsh immigration law passed by Arizona in 2010 – and now the country waits for the high court’s decision that’s expected in June.

However, there is a “growing body of concerned immigrants” who may be “expecting to hear bad news come June,” adds Oscar, while also saying he’s already thinking of moving back to his family home in Mexico City. “I just don’t know. I’m worried about my family and our future in America right now.”

Part of Oscar’s concern is linked to Arizona’s current immigration law that is considered, states The New York Times, “to be one of the harshest of its kind in the country because liberals argue that it encourages discrimination against Latinos.”

“If they are against Latinos, what do you think about other immigrant peoples in America,” questioned Oscar while then answering his query with “they will go after Latinos and anyone they feel are not white or American enough. That’s a sad reality.”

Arizona’s new immigration law is “not American”

“I guess those people in Arizona were always American?” quips Oscar’s wife Maria while fixing dinner at their modest home in nearby Reedsport, Oregon. “I just can’t believe what they’ve done in Arizona. You won’t find us going there,” adds the concerned mother of four who is proud of her green card status but worries about friends and neighbors who are new immigrants in the U.S.

For instance, the Times reports how one of the most controversial parts of Arizona’s new S.B. 1070 immigration law “requires police officers to demand identification papers from any suspect they stop if they have a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that the person is an illegal immigrant. Critics say the provision, known as the ‘papers please,’ section of the law, will unfairly target Latinos and other immigrants.”

In turn, Arizona’s officials have said it was forced to set up this new immigration law because the feds failed to “secure the boarder,” resulting in what Arizona’s governor said was “about 400,000 illegal immigrants coming into the state.”

While there’s hope that the Supreme Court will do the right thing and reject Arizona’s controversial and very strict new immigration law, there are other political science experts who explained the high court’s decision process during the usual morning talk shows as “a court with a strong conservative bent.”

Also, the Supreme Court upheld a different Arizona immigration law last year and thus there’s not a lot of hope, say high court scholars, that it will overturn Arizona’s law to both tighten its boarders and hassle immigrants.

Image source of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer meeting with President Barack Obama in June 2010 in the wake of SB 1070, to discuss immigration and border security issues. Photo courtesy Wikipedia

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