Court Decision on Arizona Immigration Law Becomes Voter Rallying Cry

In a push to energize voters at the polls, immigration activists are rallying against the Supreme Court's decision to uphold a portion of Arizona's SB 1070 law that allows for police officers to ask for immigration documents.

"We are not taking this decision sitting down," New York City Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito said during an immigration rally in front of the federal courthouse in Manhattan."We are mobilizing, we are activating our members, we are getting involved in this election."

Despite the Supreme Court's decision to strike down three out of the four controversial provisions of the law, many are protesting the court's decision to uphold the controversial "show me your papers" provision of the law, which allows state and local police to perform roadside immigration checks if a "reasonable suspicion" exists that someone is in the country illegally.

"Make no mistake about it, the Arizona "show me your paper" law was born out of discriminatory intent," S.J. Jung, President of the Minkwon Center for Community Action a Korean and Asian community organization shouted during the rally. "Today's decision may help open the flood gate of racial profiling and discrimination."

Morna Ha– Executive Director, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, said the decision would be used to rally voters to the polls in November.

"Today, with this decision, we will be moved to action again, this time to the ballot box," she said. "Our voices will be heard come November."

Proponents of the Arizona law hailed the ruling, but said it did not mean police officers would overstep their authority and single out immigrants simply because of their immigration status.

"I am confident our officers are prepared to carry out this law responsibly and lawfully," said Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. "Nothing less is acceptable."

But some say the decision was a major blow to minorities.

“It does heighten the stakes in this election for people of color throughout the country,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous, referring to the "show me your papers" provision. “Unfortunately, by letting the show me your papers stand, the Supreme Court has dealt a blow to the great values of inclusion and fairness and we will keep fighting in Congress and in the courts and we will push voters to the polls.”

The decision by the court largely favored the Obama Administration, which sued Arizona over the law shortly after it was passed in 2010, but there was still much confusion around the country on Monday on whether it was a clear victory for immigration activists or a victory for SB 1070 supporters.

Activists in Phoenix, Arizona, against SB 1070 held a prayer vigil before the decision and cheered at the state capitol when word that three out of the four provisions were struck down.

But in New York, activists claimed no such victory. Activists said the message was clear: there is still work to be done, especially on comprehensive immigration reform.

"We are deeply disappointed with the notion that local police will still be permitted to check status upon stops - it's going to certainly green light more racial profiling," said Jose Davilar, Vice President of the Hispanic Federation. "We will continue to work with to get out congress and our president to ultimately pass comprehensive immigration reform that this law becomes mute."

Some immigration activists are comparing the so-called "show me your papers" provision to New York's "Stop and Frisk" tactic of stopping, questioning, and sometimes frisking people - that is facing growing criticism. In 2011, the NYPD made 684,330 stops, and of those stopped, 87 percent were black or Latino, according to the department.

"That's what happens when you leave discretion up to the police," said Linda Sarsour of the National Network of Arab American Communities, referring to the over abundance of minorities stopped and frisked in New York City. "When November comes up, we are going to remember all of those legislators that did not stand by our movement. Today our movement has been reorganized, re-mobilized, and re-energized."

Follow Bryan Llenas on Twitter @Bryan_Llenas .

Follow us on
Like us at