By Luke Vargas
Meeting with reporters in Washington Monday after the Supreme Court’s ruling on Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law, the ACLU and a handful of civil liberties groups voiced a mixture of pleasure and disappointment, but maintained that their efforts to oppose the law and its counterparts across the nation is only beginning.
The meeting was called in order to present what the ACLU described as a “major initiative to fight state attempts to control immigration” in the wake of a mixed ruling by the nation’s highest court on Arizona’s effort to crack down on illegal immigration. The details of the exact plan to be pursued by the group and its allies itself are unfolding, but ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said that in the past weeks his organization had solicited the financial support of fifteen donors and raised close to $9 million to support legal challenges to the remaining provisions of the Arizona law.
Pushed on the specifics of the court’s decision and the Department of Justice’s oral arguments, Romero explained that the arguments were “convoluted” because the court chose only to consider how SB 1070 conflicted with federal law, instead of weighing the risk the implementation of the law itself would cause racial profiling. In its ruling today, the Supreme Court left open the possibility that it would consider further cases of the reworked Arizona law and its effects on citizens and immigrants in the coming years.
While some characterized the Supreme Court’s ruling as a lukewarm result for the Obama administration – which had fought to overturn the law in its entirety – Romero maintained that Section 2(B) of SB 1070 remains “an invitation to racial profiling.” It is on this front that Romero was confident his group’s position on the issue would ultimately win out over Arizona and similar states. To that end, Marielena Hincapie of the National Immigration Law Center called on those negatively impacted by the Arizona law to reach out to an Arizona support hotline that will sort through allegations of profiling and build the foundation for both individual and class action litigation against the state.
Romero endorsed such a strategy, noting that expensive litigation efforts by civil rights groups will dissuade communities from enforcing strict immigration laws. One example of such a strategy paying off occurred in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where Romero noted that a single civil suit cost the city upwards of $3 million in legal fees.
“This litigation will cost jurisdictions lots of taxpayer money, and we will meet them toe to toe wherever they wish to enact these laws,” Romero said.
With her attention also directed to the future, Janet Murguia of the National Council of La Raza told those opposed to Arizona’s immigration law that their best way to voice their frustration was by voting in November, presumably against those supporting similar laws to SB 1070. Murguia noted that the Hispanic community reacted with anger to the Arizona law when it passed in 2010, and that “today’s ruling will spur even greater action.”
“Latinos will have a chance to weigh in on this law in November, and I believe that the most important march we can have … will be the march to the voting booths,” Murguia said.
Discussion of concrete legal action may have dominated the press conference, but Romero closed on a note of moral indignation in which he called out Arizona’s governor by name: “To Janet Brewer and to all the xenophobic state legislators and governors who wish to do their political agendas on the backs of American citizens who believe this is wrong, and on the backs of immigrants, we say to those xenophobes, ‘bring it on.’”
“The ACLU has been around for 92 years, we’ve seen Janet Brewers come and go,” Romero said, “We will be here regardless of the political outcomes of the next legislative processes.”