Immigrant advocates on Long Island expressed relief that the U.S. Supreme Court Monday struck down the stringent aspects of Arizona’s immigration law, including requiring immigrants to carry proof of status.
But those same advocates voiced concern that the justices upheld police authority to check immigration status and ask for documentation.
“The show-me-your-papers provision is going to have a devastating impact,” said Luis Valenzuela, director of the Long Island Immigrant Alliance, an advocacy coalition in Amityville. “It is going to encourage racial profiling, not only in Arizona but in copycat states.”
Supporters of stricter immigration policies said they were content that the justices did not strike down the entire law.
The ruling “is a victory for states’ rights, and will help other states to fight illegal immigration,” Elaine Kahl, spokeswoman for the Suffolk County Coalition for Legal Immigration/No Amnesty, a pro-enforcement group in Water Mill, said in a statement.
“It is a genuinely split decision,” said Patrick Young, a Hofstra Law School professor and immigrant advocate. “It’s a compromise decision between civil libertarians and the more rational conservatives . . . that the Constitution does not allow state enforcement.”
In practical terms, the court’s ruling changes nothing on Long Island or around New York, since neither the counties nor the state have passed laws similar to Arizona’s.
Adam Cox, a professor at the New York University School of Law, said the decision “may be of little practical importance” now as it leaves enforcement up to the federal government.
“The tenor of the decision is one that is pretty supportive of the federal government’s discretion and what its enforcement priorities are,” he said.
Maryann Slutsky, director of Long Island Wins, an immigrant advocacy group in Old Westbury, said that regardless of the law’s effect, the decision is a bad compromise because allowing police to go beyond local law enforcement erodes everyone’s civil liberties.
“When one group’s civil rights are targeted, everybody is at risk,” Slutsky said. “This is really an un-American government intrusion.”