Undocumented immigrants should be breathing a sigh of relief after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision on the controversial Arizona immigration law, yet news media have been bombarding us with news stories that would probably scare them instead.
The Court issued its decision last Monday about the four-part Arizona law, in which the Court struck down the strongest three parts of the law and left only one part standing, the weakest part. Yet this does not seem to be what the news media is reporting. Many of these stories are incorrectly reporting the Court’s decision for what may be political purposes to get Latino voters riled up in an election year.
There are two major ways in which these inaccuracies are being made. The first way news media incorrectly reported the Court’s decision is by saying that the Court upheld the part of S.B.1070 that allows police to stop, question, and briefly detain immigrants if they have reason to believe they are in the country illegally. This is inaccurate. In fact, the exact opposite is true. The Court quoted its previous holding in Mendoza, 468 U.S. 1032, 1038 (1984) that “If the police stop someone based on nothing more than possible removability, the usual predicate for an arrest is absent.” The Court said police can run an immigration check on people who they stop “on some other legitimate basis.” The Court specifically struck down the provision of S.B.1070 that would allow police to stop people on the basis of suspicion of having illegal status.
The second way news reports incorrectly reported the Supreme Court’s decision is by saying that the Court upheld the “show me your papers” provision of the Arizona law. News reports are giving this label to the upheld provision of the law, calling it the “show-me-your-papers” law. However, the fact is that the Court’s decision does not require people to carry immigration papers with them nor does it require them to show immigration papers to police.
Referring to the Court’s decision as the “show me your papers” decision is incorrect. News reports that use the “show me your papers” label when discussing the decision, give readers the impression that the Court’s decision requires immigrants to carry papers, when the Court actually said the opposite. The Court specifically struck down the provision that would have required immigrants to carry immigration papers. Section 3 of the Arizona law S.B.1070 forbids the “willful failure to complete or carry an alien registration document,” which the Court struck down on the basis that it preempts federal law.
Consequently, undocumented immigrants can feel free to breathe that sigh of relief. Click here to read the Supreme Court’s entire decision.