VOICEOVER: On Wednesday April 25th, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the oral arguments for the landmark United States Vs. Arizona case, which will determine the fate of Arizonaâ€™s controversial Senate Bill 1070. Outside, hundreds of people attended a rally asserting their opposition to the bill, with a sizeable group of supporters also holding a demonstration in front of the nationâ€™s highest court. The case focuses on 4 of the billâ€™s provisions, with the Federal government arguing that Arizona has attempted to unconstitutionally supersede federal authority over immigration policy. Phoenix Attorney Danny Ortega explains how the justicesâ€™ decision will set an important precedent for state immigration policy.
DANNY ORTEGA, ATTORNEY, PHOENIX, AZ: From a legal front the Supreme Courtâ€™s certainly going to have a lot to say about what rights states have to enact legislation like we did in Arizona, SB1070 has aimed at obligating local police officers to enforce federal immigration law and thatâ€™s what the court has to decide, can they do that?
VOICEOVER: Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed SB1070 into law into 2 years ago, but the federal government blocked most of its provisions several months later right before it was to go into effect. Governor Brewer and other Arizona supporters of SB1070 like Cochise County Sherriff Larry Dever have argued that border states like Arizona must take immigration matters into their own hands because the Federal government has failed to do enough to curb unauthorized immigration.
LARRY DEVER, SHERRIFF, COCHISE COUNTY, AZ: We actually started this argument with taking the federal government to task over their failure to enforce the laws thoroughly at the border to protect our country at that level, and over the years more assets have been thrown into that, Congress has paid some attention, itâ€™s just not enough or not quickly enough and because itâ€™s language was so far we now have an internal thereat of an illegal population, people that should not live here, many of them who are very, very bad people.
VOICEOVER: While the right has been playing the politics of fear in order to advance hard-line legislation like SB1070, many Hispanic communities in Arizona feel they are being discriminated against and unfairly forced to live in a state of fear. Community organizer Pedro Lopez was born in California, but spent most of his life growing up in Mexico before moving to Arizona. He drove to Washington, DC from Phoenix to participate in the rally and host a 48-hour vigil.
PEDRO LOPEZ, COMMUNITY ORGANIZER, PHOENIX, AZ: I came to Arizona for the first time from Mexico in 2006, our community was a little afraid our community has been racially profiled by Arpaio and all the ICE agents around the state but as soon as SB1070 hit it was chaos our parents were afraid to take our kids to school afraid to go to church they make even our kids are afraid of the police because they think their parents are going to get deported.
VOICEOVER: Critics of SB1070 say that it leads to racial profiling, while supporters contend that the law includes language that explicitly prohibits racial profiling. Although racial profiling has been at the center of the SB1070 controversy, the federal government declined to incorporate the issue into its arguments against the law, instead focusing on issues of immigration enforcement jurisdiction. Kat Rodriguez is the program director of the Tucson-based Derechos Humanos coalition, which engages in grassroots campaigns against law enforcement discrimination and border militarization in Arizona. She explains how the Supreme Court decision could have far reaching implications across the country as a number of other states have been passing similar â€œcopy catâ€ laws.
KATHRYN RODRIGUEZ, PROGRAM DIRECTOR, DERECHOS HUMANOS, AZ: The truth is that there are a lot of people in right wing think tanks sitting poised waiting to see what the results of this decision will be, Arizona as weâ€™ve known for a long time is a test laboratory it is a stepping place where they create this legislation and establish a precedent and replicate it in other states weâ€™ve seen this happen with sb1070 with prop 200 with various things that have come through Arizona in the past years and have been generated there are connections throughout the country with the same sort of players writing the script and framing all of this.
VOICEOVER: Justice Elena Kagan will be sitting out on the case due to previous involvement during her time as solicitor general, leaving an 8-justice court. Their decision is expected to be handed down in June, with people on both sides of the immigration debate watching with anticipation.