News & Politics

Supreme Court Upholds Key Portion Of Arizona’s Breathing While Brown Immigration Law

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The United States Supreme Court moments ago handed down a ruling on whether Arizona’s controversial “breathing while brown” immigration law violates the Constitution.

Details of the Court’s decision are unclear at the moment — it literally just happened a few minutes ago — but according various media reports, the court ruled 5-3 to uphold the most controversial portion of the law, which allows the state to check the immigration status of anyone stopped by police if there’s “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country illegally. In other words, it gives local cops the power to act as immigration officers, despite the fact that immigration enforcement is currently the responsibility of the federal government — regardless of whether the feds actually enforce it.

The court, however, struck down three other provisions of the law.

The law — which was introduced by ousted state Senate President Russell
Pearce, who was given a voter-assisted boot from office during a
historic recall election last year
— was passed by the Arizona
Legislature in 2010 in response to the opinion by many in the Grand
Canyon State that the federal government isn’t doing enough to enforce
immigration laws.

The case quickly became a state’s rights issue, which is what landed it in the Supreme Court.

The law started an international firestorm, with those opposed to it
claiming that it’s racist because it gives cops the power to unlawfully
stop Hispanics.

At the time of its passage, we were working for the Voice’s sister paper
in Phoenix, and had a front-row seat for the fallout, which included
thousands upon thousands of immigration activists storming the state in
protest of the “racist” law.

Following the bill’s passage, several immigration activists — including
Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva — declared a boycott of all things
Arizona. Grijalva, however — after apparently realizing that calling
for a boycott of his own state isn’t the best move — withdrew his
support of the boycott.

The two-sided nature of the Court’s decision is likely to spark more protests from immigration
activists, as well as reignite the debate over whether state’s
have the right to go over the head of the feds when it comes to
immigration enforcement — so you can look forward to Arizona’s resident ding-bat, Governor Jan Brewer, appearing on all the national news talk shows over the next few days.

We’ll add to this post as more details of the Court’s ruling become available. Check back for updates. Meantime, click here to watch our favorite “Jan Brewer moment” — and keep in mind that this woman is in charge of an entire state (sigh).