SB 1070: California Is Not Arizona

hector villagraMonday the Supreme Court struck down most of Arizona’s SB 1070, the anti-immigrant draconian law that was passed in 2010. Three key provisions were struck down today and these were some of the most outrageous provisions in the law.

The first made it unlawful for an undocumented immigrant without work authorization to look for or accept work.

The second made it unlawful for a lawful immigrant to not carry their immigration papers on them.

And the third would have allowed local police officers to make a warrantless arrest of a person if they suspected they had committed a deportable crime. And when it comes to deciding who is deportable, who is not — who is removable and who is not — local police officers simply don’t have the training and the expertise to make that decision. So it would have been ridiculous. Thankfully none of those provisions will never see the light of day; they will never go into effect.

One provision was, for at least the moment, allowed to remain alive. And that’s the so-called “show me your papers” provision. That provision allows a police officer in Arizona during a lawful stop, detention or arrest, to verify a person’s immigration status if the officer believes the person to be undocumented.

How in the world is an officer supposed to decide that somebody’s undocumented, other than by looking at the color of their skin, hearing their accent, or looking at their name? It is an absolute, blatant invitation for local police officers to engage in racial profiling. And it will violate the rights and the dignity of citizens and lawful immigrants throughout Arizona.

We have no doubt of this. And we have no doubt that we will be able to prove it in a court, and that we will be able to enjoin the “show me your papers” provision from ever going into effect.

Monday’s decision has posed a question for states around the country: do they want to follow the Arizona example? Or do they want to follow a different path? California is not Arizona: it never has been and it never will be. There’s one way to make sure of that, and that’s to establish a law in California, that police here will be police and will remain police. They’re not going to be turned into immigration agents.

We should not follow the example of Arizona. I think that Monday’s decision shows that Arizona is a failed experiment. Most of this law – most of it has been struck down. And the piece that remains is obviously on life support. And it’s just a matter of time before that dies the death that it deserves.

hector villagraThere’s one aspect of Monday’s decision that I think everyone should be in agreement in. And that is our immigration system is obviously broken. The message that came through from the Supreme Court’s decision, is that however frustrated a state might be, that doesn’t give it room to pass its own immigration laws.

And I think that’s a message that the country should hear, and move away from pushing these sort of local proposals, towards pushing our elected representatives in Congress to do the right thing. They’ve known for years what it is, they’ve just refused to do it. And now’s the opportunity for us to turn our attention back to them and the job they need to do.

Hector Villagra
Executive Director
ACLU of Southern California
ACLU-SC Facebook 

Posted: Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The article is a transcription of the videotaped remarks.

Published by the LA Progressive on June 26, 2012
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About Hector Villagra

Hector Villagra has been Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California since February 2011.

He launched the Orange County Office of the ACLU of Southern California in September 2005 and served as its Director until October 2009 when he became Legal Director for the ACLU of Southern California.

Before joining the ACLU, Mr. Villagra served as Regional Counsel for the Los Angeles Regional Office of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) from 2001 to 2005 and as a staff attorney at MALDEF from 1999 to 2001. Mr. Villagra has served as counsel in civil rights cases involving such issues as educational equity, religious discrimination, immigrants’ rights, and voting rights.

He began his professional career as a law clerk for the Honorable Robert N. Wilentz, Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, and the Honorable Stephen Reinhardt, circuit judge on the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Mr. Villagra graduated from Columbia University and Columbia University School of Law.