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Critics of immigration law claim partial victory in ruling

Sen. Steve Gallardo and critics of Arizona's tough 2010 immigration law claim a partial victory in the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on SB1070. (Photo by Luige del Puerto)

Critics of Arizona’s SB1070 claimed partial victory immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court today struck a majority of the provisions of the controversial immigration law.

But they also vowed to defeat the portion of the state law that the court upheld.

That provision requires police to make a reasonable attempt to determine people’s immigration status during routine stops.

Sen. Steve Gallardo, a Phoenix Democrat who has previously introduced legislation to repeal the state law, asked those who are stopped to document their encounters with law enforcers as probable proof of racial profiling.

Gallardo said the U.S. Supreme Court justices left a big window open for critics to come forward with proof that the so-called “papers please” section of the law violates people’s constitutional rights.

“Racial profiling hasn’t been argued in front of the Supreme Court yet,” Gallardo said.

Critics hope that another lawsuit against SB1070, which alleges that the state law violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection by subjecting Latinos to racial discrimination as well as two other constitutional provisions, would serve as vehicle to complete their legal victory against the law.

Already, immigration activists said they’ll be keeping a close eye on how law enforcers implement the law’s requirement to check a person’s legal status if “reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien and is unlawfully present in the United States.”

In a 5-3 decision, the high court said this requirement does not interfere with the federal immigration scheme. The justices noted that consultation between state and federal officials is an important part of the country’s immigration system.

But the justices allowed the provision to stand on a narrow ground and they’re interested to see how it’s implemented.

“Members of law enforcement, we’re watching you,” Lydia Guzman, an immigration activist, said during a press briefing at the state Capitol today. “If you are not respecting people’s constitutional rights, we are going to make sure that we document this.”

Indeed, some of the critics refused to call the ruling a victory.

Carlos Garcia of Puente, an immigrants rights group, said life for immigrants is “worse than yesterday.”

“Today, racial profiling is legalized in the state of Arizona,” he said.

But while they said the fight is far from over, most critics hailed the court ruling as a vindication of their opposition to the 2010 law that spawned massive protests and eventually became one of the reasons of the successful recall effort against its architect, former Senate President Russell Pearce.

Indeed, they often referred to their opposition to the immigration law as another civil rights battle.

“Arizona’s efforts to create new criminal laws against immigrants have been strongly turned down by the United States Supreme Court as unconstitutional,” said Mary Rose Wilcox, a supervisor in Maricopa County.

Wilcox said the struck-down provisions of the law are proof that they’re on the “winning side of history.”

“Three down. One (more) to go,” she said.

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