Thursday, April 26, 2012


On Wednesday, April 25, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case Arizona v. United  States.  It was my privilege to be present for the entire time of the oral arguments.

The Federal government was suing the State of Arizona because the Federal government reads the U.S. Constitution as giving full authority and competence on immigration issues to the Federal government, not the individual States.
U.S. Supreme Court, Washington, D.C.,
April 25, 2012

The Justices did not seem to be persuaded that one part of the Arizona law violated Federal law:  the inquiry about immigration status after a person has been stopped for another violation of the law, and when there is "reasonable suspicion" that the person might not have legal residency.  It would seem that this section could survive. 

However, questions by the Justices were presuming a quick check with the Federal data bases would be carried out, and that persons would not be held longer than for the original reason for the stop.

The Justices had far more serious questions about other sections of the Arizona law, especially those sections which make it a crime for an undocumented person to seek employment, to fail to register, or to take employment.  One will just have to wait until the Court decision to learn its scope and application for Arizona and for other States.

We must keep in mind that there are other challenges to Arizona's S.B. 1070 in the Federal courts--not on the grounds of the Federal government preempting State involvement in immigration issues, but rather, the great danger of ethnic and racial profiling because of the "reasonable suspicion" of not having legal residential status language.  Since the vast majority of people who will be questioned about their immigration status are dark-skinned or Hispanic, one can just imagine who will be checked.

Chief Justice John Roberts was well aware of this fact and that those issues may eventually come to the Court.  When Solicitor General Donald Verrilli began his oral argument, Chief Justice Roberts intervened at once: 

"Before you get into what the case is about, I'd like to clear up at the outset what it's not about.  No part of your argument has to do with racial or ethnic profiling, does it?  I saw none of that in your brief."

Verrelli responded:  "That's correct."

This issue, however, is surely a major problem with the Arizona law.  Who else will law enforcement officers inquire about their legal residency status if not people of color, those who don't speak English well, and Hispanics?

But the Justices cannot be oblivious to the implications and practical effects of the Arizona law.  In my opinion, they simply must analyze the implications on individuals and their families when they render their final decision.

The Catholic Church will continue to stand with all of our immigrant brothers and sisters, regardless of legal residency, and will continue our efforts to extend earned paths to legal residency for all categories of these people.