Reporting Gary Nelson
Legislative Session Coverage
WASHINGTON (CBS4) – The state of Arizona won’t be sending passels of people south of the border using its tough, controversial immigration law. The United States Supreme Court on Monday struck down much of the law that had permitted lawmen to detain people who even looked like they might be in the country illegally.
The high court ruled that police may not arrest people simply on the suspicion that they may be undocumented. The ruling also prohibits Arizona – and other states – from requiring that immigrants carry documents proving their immigration status. It also struck down a portion of the Arizona law that prohibited undocumented aliens from applying for jobs.
The Supreme Court ruling said police may check the immigration status of suspects only after they have been arrested for an unrelated crime, and where investigators have a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country illegally.
Cheryl Little, Director of the group Americans for Immigrant Justice in Miami, said immigrant advocates were heartened by the bulk of the court’s ruling, but disappointed that police may still check the status of those they arrest and “reasonably” suspect may be undocumented.
“What does reasonable suspicion mean?” Little asked. “Do they look at the color of your skin? Do they listen to the accent in your voice when you’re speaking to them?”
Little was impressed, though, that the Supreme Court left the door open for a future challenge to the “reasonable suspicion” portion of the law.
The high court ruling comes as a rebuke for Florida’s Governor Rick Scott who campaigned supporting Arizona’s law, proposing a similar one for Florida.
“If you’re here illegally, and you’re stopped for doing something wrong, you should be deported,” Scott told CBS4′s Gary Nelson in an interview during his 2010 campaign.
Scott caught heat for his position from some fellow Republicans in largely immigrant South Florida.
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami-Dade said she and fellow GOP leaders endorsed Scott, but opposed his immigration ideas.
“We disagree with Rick Scott on his proposal for an Arizona style law,” Ros-Lehtinen said at the time.
The Supreme Court ruling Monday assures there will be no Arizona model in Florida, or anywhere else. Governor Scott’s office did not respond to CBS4′s request for comment.
Most law enforcement agencies have opposed such laws, saying it makes it harder for them to fight more serious crime.
Major Nancy Perez of the Miami-Dade Police Department told CBS4 News Monday that laws like Arizona’s make undocumented residents fearful to come forward as witnesses because they’re concerned about deportation.
Perez also said crimes go unreported when immigrants fear calling police.
“There are women, victims of violent domestic crime, who don’t report it because they’re afraid of getting into immigration trouble,” Perez said.