Statement from the NC Justice Center: Ruling on Arizona immigration law offers message for North Carolina

RALEIGH (June 25, 2012) – Today the Supreme Court confirmed what we already knew: that immigration is a federal issue, and that Congress – not the states – needs to act. The decision should be a nail in the coffin to Arizona-like bills in North Carolina.

The court rejected a provision of the Arizona law that made it a crime to seek or hold a job as an unauthorized worker. The ruling also rightfully blocked a provision that would have allowed police to arrest individuals solely because a person looks like he or she is not in the U.S. legally.

Unfortunately, the court allowed the so-called “show me your papers” provision to stand temporarily, requiring law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of people they “reasonably suspect” of being unlawfully present and whom they have stopped for another lawful reason. This leaves the window open for law enforcement to racially profile individuals. Let there be no confusion: Racial profiling is already happening and will continue to occur in North Carolina. The ruling does not change that reality for people of color across the state. However, the court made it clear that the statute could face challenges in the future if it can be shown that law enforcement officers are illegally racially profiling or detaining persons solely on the basis of suspected immigration violations. The order does not prevent further lawsuits once the law goes into effect, and other civil rights groups are in fact already challenging the law.

More than anything, the ruling shows that a state has no place to be implementing immigration laws – and that such actions do not stand up to scrutiny. We urge North Carolina legislators to reject any legislation that would try to follow Arizona’s example. It would be a waste of money and time for the state, and would entail a court battle that North Carolina would almost certainly lose. North Carolina cannot afford to waste valuable resources at a time when the state faces real, immediate challenges, such as unemployment and our underfunded education system.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dani Moore, Director of the Immigrant and Refugees Rights Project, dani@ncjustice.org, 919.856.2178; Julia Hawes, Communications Specialist, Julia@ncjustice.org, 919.863.2406.