One thing was clear in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s long-awaited ruling on Arizona’s controversial immigration law: there was plenty to like, and plenty to loathe, on both sides of the debate.
“It’s a really sad day when it comes to civil rights,” declared Congressman Luis Gutierrez, while his Republican colleague Joe Walsh called the decision, “an important first step.”
The high court struck down most of the Arizona statutes, ruling that they crossed the line into areas which should be the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal government. But the court left intact a provision requiring police to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest, if officers have a reason to believe that person may be undocumented.
“We shouldn’t use racial profiling to do police work,” Gutierrez declared. “What they’ve said, is that racial profiling is ok.”
Walsh disagreed. “This is enforcing a law on the books,” he said. “This is something the federal government should be doing.”
The suburban Republican predicted other local jurisdictions will now follow suit.
“I think this will embolden local law enforcement officials all over the country now, to be able to take this first step.”
That isn’t clear. Only five states have enacted similar measures to the Arizona law: Utah, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and closer to home, Indiana. And in Indianapolis, lawmakers seemed to be taking a cautious approach.
“The US Supreme Court’s decision provides valuable guidance to Indiana and other states,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a statement. “The failure of Congress to reform our immigration statutes has put states in the difficult position of seeking this guidance from the judicial branch.”
Zoeller said he will review the decision, and “advise Indiana’s legislature of any necessary changes to our current statutes.”
The Indiana law allows local police to detain individuals who are subject to court removal orders. Kenneth Falk, an attorney for the ACLU, told the Indianapolis Star that the decision clearly should have a local impact.
“Indiana was trying to allow people to be arrested for things that weren’t even offenses,” he said.
Illinois Senator Richard Durbin made clear that he was in staunch disagreement with the ruling.
“I don’t like it,” Durbin said. “I wish they’d stricken down the whole law.”
Still Durbin said one thing was clear: that the Federal government needed to clarify immigration law, once and for all.
“Congress should deal with comprehensive immigration reform,” Durbin said. “It is long overdue.”
“If we allow it to disintegrate into a state by state immigration reform, we are going to continue to see these iniquities.”