July 2012 Volume 19 Number 3
SB 1070, DREAM, Elections
The US Supreme Court in June 2012 accepted one and rejected three parts of Arizona's SB 1070, a law enacted in April 2010 aimed at pushing unauthorized foreigners out of the state. Federal courts had blocked four of SB 1070's key provisions: those requiring police to verify the immigration status of everyone they encounter whom they reasonably suspect may be unauthorized; allowing police to arrest foreigners they believe to have committed deportable offenses; making it a state crime for foreigners to fail to carry registration documents; and making it a state crime for illegal immigrants to seek or perform work.
Arizona appealed these injunctions, arguing that SB 1070 or the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act supports federal efforts to enforce laws against illegal immigration. The Obama administration joined critics who argued that SB 1070 represents undue state interference with the federal government's exclusive power to regulate immigration. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he would not oppose state laws such as SB 1070.
In a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court reinforced the federal government's exclusive authority to regulate migration but allowed state and local police to determine the status of persons they "reasonably suspect" are not lawfully in the US. The Court warned that, if police implement Section 2(B) of SB 1070 in ways that lead to racial profiling and civil rights violations, it could be found unconstitutional as well. The Court struck down the other three provisions of SB 1070.
State and local police are studying how to implement their power to determine the legal status of suspected unauthorized foreigners. On the one hand, SB 1070 allows Arizona residents to sue police who do not enforce the law. On the other hand, the US Department of Justice established a hot-line for Arizona residents to complain about police violations of their civil rights (855-353-1010). The Department of Homeland Security announced that it was suspending its 287(g) agreements with Arizona law enforcement agencies.
DHS estimated that the number of unauthorized foreigners in Arizona rose from 330,000 in 2000 to 560,000 in 2008 and dropped to 360,000 in 2011. The number of English-language learners in Arizona K-12 schools fell from 155,000 in 2005 to 100,000 in 2011.
Many of those advocating less immigration support the right of states to enact laws that aim for attrition through enforcement; those urging more immigration generally argue that only the federal government can establish and enforce immigration laws. An April 2012 Fox News poll found that 65 percent of Americans support SB 1070. Divisions on illegal immigration were evident among states. The attorney generals of 16 states filed briefs in support of SB 1070, while 11 filed briefs opposing SB 1070. In the House, 80 Republican members signed a brief supporting SB 1070 while 70 Democrats signed a brief opposing it.
Five states, Alabama with HB 56, Georgia with HB 87, Indiana with SB 590 and HB 1402, South Carolina with S 20, and Utah with HB 497, enacted laws similar to SB 1070 in 2011. Five states considered immigration control laws in 2012: Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, West Virginia and Tennessee. Mississippi in spring 2012 considered HB 488, an attrition-through-enforcement bill, but did not enact it into law after opposition from most of the state's employers.
Alabama, the only state that has been allowed to implement the show-me-your-papers provision of SB 1070 upheld by the Supreme Court, in 2012 modified a few provisions of HB 56 and added more, including a requirement that the state publish the name of every illegal immigrant who appears in court to respond to charges of violating a state law. Civil rights groups are documenting what they call a pattern of racial profiling by police.
The US Department of Justice in May 2012 sued Maricopa (Arizona) county Sheriff Joe Arpaio, citing a "pattern of unlawful discrimination" against Latinos. DOJ sought a judicial order requiring Arpaio and his 900 deputies to end a "pattern or practice of unlawful conduct." Arpaio said that DOJ filed the suit in an effort to win Hispanic votes for Obama in Arizona.
DREAM. The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act would allow unauthorized foreigners brought to the US as children to become probationary immigrants immediately. If they completed two years of college or military service, they could become legal immigrants and eventually US citizens.
Senate Republicans blocked approval of DREAM in 2010. During his quest for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney denounced DREAM, calling it a magnet for unauthorized migration. However, in April 2012 Romney said he would consider a revised version of DREAM proposed by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) that would give unauthorized foreigners brought to the US as children an indefinite legal status but not a path to citizenship. Those legalized under Rubio's version of DREAM could later seek immigrant visas via marriage or ties to relatives settled in the US or by having an employer sponsor them.
In June 2012, Romney said: "We can find common ground [on immigration reform.] We owe it to ourselves as Americans to ensure that our country remains a land of opportunity, both for those who were born here and for those who share our values, respect our laws, and want to come to our shores." Romney called for revising guest worker programs to meet "our economic needs."
President Obama in June 2012 announced that DHS would stop deporting unauthorized foreigners who arrived in the US before age 16, are between the ages of 16 and 30 and lived illegally in the US at least five years, and are enrolled in school, have a high school diploma or equivalent degree or are honorably discharged veterans. Qualifying unauthorized foreigners can register with DHS and receive permission to work legally if they can show "financial hardship." Obama said that this "temporary stopgap measure" would "lift the shadow of deportation from these young people."
Latinos praised Obama and said that the new policy could increase enthusiasm for Obama's re-election; some called it the most significant migration policy change since the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 legalized 2.7 million unauthorized foreigners in 1987-88, including 2.3 million Mexicans. However, Romney said that Obama's executive action "makes it more difficult" to deal with unauthorized foreign youth.
Some Congressional Republicans said that Obama was defying US law in a bid to win Hispanic votes in 2012. Polls show that most Hispanics oppose the stepped-up enforcement of immigration laws that resulted in 400,000 deportations a year under President Obama. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that almost 70 percent of Americans, and 90 percent of Hispanics, supported Obama's plan to allow unauthorized foreigners brought as children to the US to register for protection from deportation.
Obama acted on the 30th anniversary of Plyler v. Doe, the US Supreme Court decision that held that states cannot deny K-12 education to unauthorized foreigners.
The Pew Hispanic Center estimated that 700,000 unauthorized foreigners between 18 and 30 could be eligible for renewable two-year "deferred action" under Obama's plan and another 700,000 unauthorized children still in school could benefit. The total 1.4 million unauthorized foreigners who could benefit are about 12 percent of the unauthorized stock of foreigners in the US in 2010; an estimated 70 percent are Mexicans.
Elections. The Hispanic vote may be smaller in 2012 than in 2008 despite the increased number of Hispanic residents. Almost 12 million Hispanics were registered to vote in 2008, half of the 20 million who were could have registered. By contrast, two-thirds of eligible whites and Blacks were registered in 2008.
The number of Hispanics registered to vote has dropped to 10 million in 2012, even though 22 million Hispanics are eligible to register. There are several reasons for the drop in registrations, including the fact that some Hispanics moved and failed to re-register. About 10 million of the Hispanics eligible to vote live in California and Texas, states expected to vote for Obama and Romney, respectively.
A third of the 50 million Hispanics in the US are under 18, and a third of Hispanics eligible to vote are between 18 and 30.
In November 2008, some 131 million votes were cast. Whites cast 100 million or 76 percent of these votes; Blacks, 16 million or 12 percent; Hispanics, 10 million or 7.5 percent; and Asians 3.3 million or 2.5 percent. According to Pew, whites voted 43-55 percent for Obama in 2008; Blacks 95-4 percent for Obama; Hispanics 67-31 percent for Obama; and Asians 62-35 percent for Obama.
A May 2012 Gallup poll found that Hispanics favor Obama over Romney by 67-26 percent. However, disappointment with Obama's failure to persuade Congress to enact an immigration reform that includes legalization and anger over 400,000 deportations a year may dissuade some Hispanics from registering and voting. Obama blames Republicans for the failure to enact immigration reforms that benefit unauthorized foreigners.
Protests on May 1, 2012 brought both immigrant rights and Occupy Wall Street demonstrators to the streets, although there were far fewer demonstrators than on May 1, 2006, the so-called "day without immigrants" to emphasize the importance of migrants to the US economy. Instead of a singular focus on immigrant rights, May 1 demonstrations in 2012 included protests against Wall Street and in favor of gay rights.
Congress. The House Judiciary Committee in September 2011 approved the Legal Workforce Act (HR 2885), which would require all employers to use E-Verify to check the legal status of new hires. Many employer groups support the LWA because it would pre-empt with a single federal law varying state and local laws that require use of E-Verify and other measures to keep unauthorized workers out of jobs.
However, farmers and migrant advocates oppose the LWA. Farmers argue that mandating use of E-Verify without a new or revised guest worker program could lead to labor shortages, while migrant advocates say that E-Verify without legalization will drive unauthorized foreigners into the underground economy.
Daniel Gonzalez, "Immigration law, politics see wave of change in 2 years," Arizona Republic, April 22, 2012.