Supreme Court's ruling on immigration law sparks debate in Iowa

BY ALY BROWN | JUNE 27, 2012 6:30 AM

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Local and state officials maintain illegal-immigration laws can be adjusted at the state level following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision Monday allowing Arizona to enforce its "show me your papers" provision of its controversial law.

Immigration is a hot-button issue in Iowa City as well with two groups — the Human Rights Commission and the recently formed ad hoc diversity committee — drawing attention to difficulties faced by the local Latino population.

"One of the big challenges that Latino residents experience is whether they are an unauthorized resident, or related to or friends with an unauthorized resident, they are pretty fearful about speaking about routine difficulties in town," City Councilor Jim Throgmorton said.

The Supreme Court supported Senate Bill 1070's most hotly debated provision requiring state and local police to verify the immigration status of people they stop, but the court denied three other provisions disputed by the federal government.

The three provisions that were shot down banned illegal immigrants from soliciting work in public places, authorized police to arrest an individual when the officer has probable cause to believe the individual has committed a deportable offense, and required immigrants to carry registration papers at all times.

"We would like similar laws in Iowa," said Robert Ussery, state director of the Iowa Minuteman. "We are disappointed the Supreme Court struck down three portions of it, but we are glad that the heart of the bill is still alive."

While several key components were challenged by the court, Ussery said, the decision is a victory for state's rights.

"States should have the right to protect themselves," he said. "The federal government only exists by the consent of the states."

Steven Camarota, the director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, said the decision will open the door for other states to pass similar laws.

"What it will probably mean is other states will be encouraged," he said. "What's likely to happen is there will be some other states will want to parallel things in Arizona or similar things now that the decision has been made."

Camarota said he thinks enforcing immigration laws have been a challenge in Washington, and he sees the court's decision as giving states more responsibility.

"It seems like this is a compromise solution by letting the states do more," he said. "The Supreme Court basically said with this decision that the states can do more."

The court allowed the state to maintain Section 2(b), which requires police to check the immigration status of anyone detained and suspected of being an unauthorized immigrant. The court allowed for ethnic-profiling cases stemming from this law to proceed, and Camarota said states will need to work hard against discrimination.

Ben Stone, the executive director of the Americans Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, said the provision is impossible to uphold without discriminating against Latino individuals.

Stone cites the Iowa Legislature's recent rejection of two bills targeting immigrants, HF 2340 and HF 2429, as a sign of our lawmakers' wisdom. The ACLU and its allies will fight against the provision in court, he said.

"The failure of the court to recognize the draconian nature of the show-me-your-papers provision reveals that the court remains out of touch, not realizing how such law enforcement tactics always lead to ethnic profiling and unfair detention of citizens and immigrants alike," he said in a statement. "It is quite frankly impossible to enforce laws like Section 2(b) without using race, color or ethnicity."

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