Revolution #275, July 22, 2012
Highest U.S. Court Upholds
Fascist Anti-Immigrant Law
On June 25, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Arizona’s fascist anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, unanimously upholding the reactionary centerpiece of the law that critics have called its “show me your papers provision.” The Court also ruled by a 5-3 vote that three other parts of the law were unconstitutional. The ruling is a huge attack on immigrants in Arizona, as well as the rest of the people in this country, and it is a continuation of the oppressive and fearful conditions immigrants are forced to live under in the U.S.
Russell Pearce, the former Arizona State senator who wrote SB 1070, applauded the ruling in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, saying “the parts of the law that they didn’t uphold were not the meat of the law” and were not important to its implementation. (Wall Street Journal online, June 25, 2012)
SB 1070—The Horror of “show me your papers”
As the effective date of SB 1070 drew near in 2010, there were widespread reports of immigrants pulling their children out of school, staying away from work, fearing to catch the bus or go to the grocery store. Now the Supreme Court has given the green light for the program to go full-steam ahead, and as National Public Radio has reported, this is now having a “chilling effect” on people in Arizona.
“This law is an ugly, radically reactionary leap beyond the already intolerable conditions immigrants without papers face in this country. This law demonizes and outlaws people who are from Mexico or Latin America, or look like they may be from Mexico or Latin America, or indeed from any other country from which immigrants come. The law requires that police demand proof of legal residency from anyone they ‘stop, detain or arrest’ if police suspect that person is an undocumented immigrant. Many legal residents as well as citizens are going to be subjected to interrogation by the police because they ‘fit the description’—that is, if you are dark-skinned; have an accent; wear a certain style of clothes; or live in the ‘immigrant’ part of town.”
Since SB 1070 was signed into law in Arizona, 30 states have introduced overtly racist and cruel anti-immigrant legislation using SB 1070 as a model. And now with “show me your papers” being legalized by the Supreme Court, we can expect that the Arizona nightmare for immigrants will become a reality in many other states.
SB 1070—The law and the ruling
SB 1070 became Arizona law in the summer of 2010. The stated purpose of its backers was to drive undocumented immigrants—those who came to Arizona to work in back-breaking, low-paying jobs—out of the state by “attrition through enforcement.” This was a radical, reactionary leap beyond the already intolerable conditions faced by immigrants without papers in this country. The centerpiece of the law was a provision that you could be stopped by the authorities and, if they suspected you were not a legal resident, they required that you show proof, and then could arrest you in order to determine your immigration status.
Revolution newspaper was in Arizona during Arizona Freedom Summer 2010 where we learned about the terror-like conditions people live under:
“An immigrant told us what it’s like getting ready to go to work on Monday morning, the hesitation before you leave, knowing that a stop by the police, at any moment and for whatever reason—like your car being parked wrong—could mean you won’t make it back home, and then what will happen to your children? We heard a story from one person about a carload of five youth being stopped by the police for a broken headlight and when they protested that there was nothing wrong with the headlight, the cops smashed it in. None of the young men had papers and all were taken in....” (Revolution #206, July 4, 2010)
Right after being signed into law, four parts of SB 1070 were disputed by the federal government and were enjoined (put on hold) by a federal judge. The other draconian measures of the law were not disputed and went into effect.
The four provisions that were enjoined and fought out all the way to the Supreme Court had nothing to do with ending any of the inhumane conditions that undocumented people face daily or ending the obvious racial profiling that takes place while enforcing the “show me your papers” part of the law. Those provisions were challenged on the grounds of whether the federal government or the State of Arizona had the jurisdiction to make and enforce these laws or, as the New York Times put it, “on the asserted conflicts between state law and federal immigration laws and policies...” (“Blocking Parts of Arizona Law, Justices Allow Its Centerpiece,” June 25, 2012)
In the same decision in which the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the “show me your papers” provision, it split 5-3 to strike down three other provisions of the law. One section would have criminalized the failure to carry immigration papers; a second made it a crime to apply for work; and the third would make it a crime to be in the U.S. without legal papers.
The argument that state law is preempted by federal law was upheld because, in these three areas, the federal government already has in place laws that deal with “alien registration,” “combating the employment of illegal aliens,” and when it is and is not a crime “for a removable alien to remain in the United States.” Therefore, the majority of the Court ruled that Arizona does not need these sections, not because they infringe on the rights of immigrants, but because they “are preempted” (already exist) in federal law.
Unity and Disagreement in the Ruling Class
The ruling class as a whole recognizes that they face an unsolvable problem in that their system requires a cheap, flexible labor force that undocumented workers provide; but on the other hand, this means having millions of people living in the shadows who could become a political force of resistance to the system unless they are tightly controlled. The divisions in the ruling class here are over how to handle what both sides of the debate see as an “immigration problem.” (See “Vicious Attack on Immigrants Continue,” Revolution #209, August 15, 2010.)
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissenting opinion gives an insight into how one section of the ruling class views undocumented immigrants when he laid out that Arizona’s “citizens feel themselves under siege by large numbers of illegal immigrants who invade their property, strain their social services, and even place their lives in jeopardy,” and that “Arizona has the inherent power to exclude persons from its territory,” and by denying Arizona this power, “we should cease referring to it as a sovereign state.” Further, in a despicable and racist attempt to uphold all of SB 1070, Scalia pointed out that “in the first 100 years of the Republic, the States enacted numerous laws restricting the immigration of certain classes of aliens, including convicted criminals, indigents, persons with contagious diseases, and (in Southern States) freed blacks.” Yes, you heard him right. He said that “freed blacks” were “aliens,” and he upheld the laws that restricted them from migrating to slave states.
The Obama administration represents another section of the ruling class whose policy has led to deporting more undocumented immigrants in four years than George W. Bush did in eight years, while corralling those who will submit to being “good, patriotic Americans” into the two-party electoral system. Let’s be clear: the Obama administration is not setting out for some “softer, gentler immigration program” than the Republicans, as the Democrats would have people believe. Obama’s own words make that clear when he said “...they’ve broken the rules. They’ve cut in the front of the line. And what is also true is that the presence of so many illegal immigrants makes a mockery of all those who are trying to immigrate legally.” (“President Obama on Fixing Our Broken Immigration System: ‘E Pluribus, Unum,’” The White House Blog, May 10, 2011)
On the other side are the forces who backed SB 1070, and the whole fascist network of Tea Partiers, Minutemen, and neo-Nazis... and their sponsors in high places (e.g., Scalia), who see this situation as a way to further whip up and inflame a fascist base united around this being a “white man’s country.” While a few Republicans still hope to win Latino votes, the bulk of the Republican Party has shifted to this view.
SB 1070 and Stop-and-Frisk—
A Racial Profiling Comparison
Under the “show me your papers” section of SB 1070, the cops are supposed to have some “just cause” (lawful) reason to stop someone before they must ask for his or her papers. But ask the cop who stopped the five youth we spoke about above, for a broken headlamp that was not broken, if that was a lawful stop. Or there’s Joe Arpaio, the fascist sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona, who sets up checkpoints in what he identifies as “immigrant neighborhoods” where his deputies can go over the cars of everyone stopped to look for technical or registration violations; or operations where his officers sweep through an apartment complex questioning everyone they find about some incident that happened at the complex; or when they surround the parking lot of a local supermarket and check everyone who comes out; or raids on workplaces; or setting up outside a school as immigrant parents come to pick up their kids.
The cops in New York City have legalized racial profiling when enforcing the stop-and-frisk policy where 700,000 people were stopped in 2011 and 85 percent of those stopped were Black or Latino. People are being stopped by the New York cops just for the way they look, or by the clothes they wear, or if they show any attitude of defiance as they are walking down the street. As we reported in Revolution #273 (June 24, 2012), “The most common reason cops list for stopping people is ‘furtive movement’”—a catch-all term used to basically cover up the fact that the person was stopped for doing nothing.
The point is that these cops, in NYC, in Arizona, and countless other places have become experts at coming up with so-called legal reasons as their loophole to circumvent the government from proving that they are racially profiling. It is crucial for people to understand how illegitimate these reasons are for people to be detained and questioned by the cops.
Mass Resistance Needed
People who see the tremendous injustice in this illegitimate fascist law and the whole attack being launched against immigrants in this country need to stand up and fight back against this attack, rally others to do so, and give heart to those who want to see resistance grow against these laws. None of this is going to go away without the people taking a stand and saying we will not allow this to happen to our brothers and sisters in Arizona—and anywhere else.
Revolutionaries need to unite with this struggle, expose the source of the real problem, the capitalist-imperialist system and the solution to that problem, revolution, and bring forward people into the movement for revolution—which can sweep this all away forever when the conditions exist for that. This is what it means to “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.”
One of our slogans during Arizona Freedom Summer 2010 rings more true today than ever—We are all illegals! We don’t gotta show no stinkin’ papers!
If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.