Last year, the Arizona legislature approved what has come to be known as the toughest immigration law in America. This week, Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce (R) — sponsor of Arizona’s SB-1070 immigration law — introduced a bill that is being referred to as “SB-1070 on steroids.” The most controversial provision of Pearce’s latest law, SB-1611, would require parents to provide proof of their childrens’ immigration status when enrolling them in school. Even parents who home school their children would have to provide their county school superintendent with the information. Under SB-1611, it would be a crime for an undocumented immigrant to operate a vehicle and they will have their car seized and sold and face jail time if they do. The bill also seeks to put companies that do not use the federal electronic employment verification system out of business and would require cities to evict anyone in public housing who cannot prove they are in the U.S. legally.
Pearce previously expressed interest in introducing a bill that would require undocumented immigrant parents to pay tuition in order for their children to attend public schools in Arizona. Both proposals are clearly unconstitutional and in violation of the historic Plyler vs. Doe decision in which the Supreme Court ruled against a state statute denying education funding to undocumented children in 1982.
According to Justice William Brennan, the “denial of education to some isolated group of children poses an affront to one of the goals of the Equal Protection Clause: the abolition of governmental barriers presenting unreasonable obstacles to advancement on the basis of individual merit.” In his decision, Brennan cited the Brown v. Board of Education ruling which dictated that education “is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.” Brennan also noted that not doing so isn’t even in the state’s interest. “It is difficult to understand precisely what the State hopes to achieve by promoting the creation and perpetuation of a subclass of illiterates within our boundaries, surely adding to the problems and costs of unemployment, welfare, and crime,” noted Brennan while also adding that it probably wouldn’t be enough to cause undocumented immigrants to leave.
Meanwhile, the provision of SB-1611 which would lead to vehicle confiscations is in conflict with the Fifth Amendment, which prevents the government from depriving anyone of property without due process. The whole bill itself is probably federally preempted. Aside from the legal implications of SB-1611, there are also various practical and moral ones.
Pearce has downplayed the significance of his bill, stating, “This is cleanup…All it does is do what the voters have passed in terms of no taxpayer dollars for illegals. It just ties it up.”
Republished with permission from the Wonk Room