The Supreme Court Is Getting Scary
For many years, when they were telling us what they had in mind, the rest of us refused to believe them. It was just too cruel — too inhumane for the American people to allow it.
When immigration hawks said they wanted to make living conditions so unbearable for undocumented immigrants that they would voluntarily self-deport, we thought it was impossible for us to create so much suffering without feeling guilty about it.
"We are a compassionate nation of immigrants," we told ourselves. "We cannot trample on the tired, poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
But that is exactly what we are doing, now with a seal of approval from our highly politicized Supreme Court.
The high court's decision last week to uphold a tough Arizona law against businesses that hire undocumented immigrants may unleash a new wave of measures designed to strangle immigrants until they are forced to go back to where they came from.
Mind you, this is not the most infamous Arizona law — the one that would institutionalize racial profiling against all immigrants by allowing police to question anyone's immigration status. This one empowers local authorities to shut down any business that knowingly hires an undocumented immigrant.
This one, the Legal Arizona Workers Act, now is likely to be copied by many other states and likely to eventually displace millions of undocumented workers across the country. It gives employers no other choice but to fire workers whose status cannot be verified through the federal E-Verify program.
And it says a lot about the inclinations of the Supreme Court, which soon could be tackling the other Arizona law, SB 1070, parts of which have been found unconstitutional by a federal court but are awaiting an appeal to the high court.
Let's face it: On the issue of immigration, the Supreme Court is getting scary.
In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that "either directly or through the uncertainty that it creates, the Arizona statute will impose additional burdens upon lawful employers." In fact, it will create a mountain of red tape for our struggling small businesses. Breyer also hinted that it could lead to discrimination, even against legal job applicants, because now employers will be likelier to "erect ever stronger safeguards against the hiring of unauthorized aliens, without counterbalancing protections against unlawful discrimination."
Other opponents, including the Obama administration, had argued that immigration policy is reserved by the Constitution to the federal government and that states cannot authorize themselves to set immigration policy.
"Arizona hopes that its law will result in more effective enforcement of the prohibition on employing unauthorized aliens," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. He noted that "the Arizona regulation does not otherwise conflict with federal law."
Of course it does! The court is dangerously blurring the line between federal and local jurisdiction because it, too, has been swept up by the current anti-immigrant tsunami that has been devastating our proud heritage as a nation of immigrants.
It's pure politics, or "a tortured product of judicial activism responding to perceived political views of the moment," according to Thomas A. Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
He is absolutely correct. But if the court's conservative majority feels the same way about SB 1070, get ready for widespread and legal racial profiling and discrimination against all immigrants in this country.
"Upholding Arizona's law that requires mandatory implementation of E-Verify or (the threat of losing your business license) is opening a path forward for local governments to legislate discriminatory laws against É undocumented immigrants, who will suffer further persecution, family separation, unlawful incarceration and deportation, without due process or a chance to legalize their present status," said the Rev. Miguel Rivera, president of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, one of the organizations that filed a lawsuit against Arizona's SB 1070. He said the court's decision illustrates the urgent need for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Mind you, many immigrant rights activists agree that some strict measures to prevent future illegal immigration are necessary, but only after we have found a way to legalize the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are already here. To do it now, without first putting those 11 million people on a path to legalization, would be criminal and inhumane.
We would be tearing families apart like never before, denying ourselves much-needed workers and hurting the economy to quench the immigrant-bashing thirst of xenophobes, white supremacists and race-baiting politicians.
We didn't really believe they could make 11 million people so miserable that they would go back to their homelands voluntarily; we didn't think our national conscience would allow them to be so mean-spirited. But now, unfortunately, they have the backing of the Supreme Court to go on with their shameful behavior.
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