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Texans React to SCOTUS Ruling on Arizona Law

Opinions on the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on Arizona's immigration law, SB 1070, run the gamut. Here's an aggregated look at where Texas lawmakers and interest groups fall on the spectrum.

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Opinions on the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on Arizona's immigration law, SB 1070, run the gamut. Here's an aggregated look at where Texas lawmakers and interest groups fall on the spectrum. 

For reference, the Supreme Court opinion overturned several tough provisions in the bill, but upheld one of the most controversial: It allows police to inquire into the legal status of someone they stop.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry"Today's decision by the Supreme Court to uphold Arizona's right to check the legal status of individuals within its borders is a victory not only for the people of Arizona, but for the rule of law. No state should be held hostage to a federal government that refuses to enforce the laws of the land. But today's ruling is one step forward and two steps back - simply not good enough. It is bad enough that the Obama administration picks and chooses which laws it wishes to enforce, but for the United States Supreme Court to deprive states of some of those powers that are, in the words of Justice Scalia, ‘the defining characteristic[s] of sovereignty,' is insulting to the Constitution and our right to govern ourselves. The people of Arizona took action consistent with federal law and in direct response to the failure of this administration to secure our nation's borders. The absence of federal action on immigration enforcement directly spoils the integrity of our nation's laws."

Lt. Gov. (and U.S. Senate candidate) David Dewhurst: “The Supreme Court’s partial ruling on the Arizona immigration law only spotlights the abject failure of the federal government to secure the border. Today’s decision reinforces the need for conservatives in Congress to once and for all quit talking and secure the border. The first step is triple the size of the Border Patrol and authorize them to fight back. Congress must make states and local communities partners in securing the border, allowing them the tools necessary to enforce the laws of our Nation. Any legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens must be dead on arrival, and we must look at all the tools in our arsenal to address the influx of illegal immigrants, the threat of narco-terrorists and drug cartels.” 

Former Texas Solicitor General (and U.S. Senate candidate) Ted Cruz: "The federal government is utterly failing to secure our borders.  When Arizona stepped in to address out-of-control illegal immigration, liberal groups attacked Arizona and the Obama Administration sued the State. Rather than actually enforce our Nation’s immigration laws — which is the President’s explicit constitutional obligation—President Obama instead asked the Supreme Court to strike down Arizona’s law. Today, the Supreme Court upheld the central provision of the Arizona law. Although the Court unfortunately struck down other provisions of the Arizona law, the Court held that there is no barrier in federal law to States’ requiring local law enforcement to check on the immigration status of those criminally detained. This makes clear that sanctuary cities exist only because of state and local decision-making; it highlights that we have sanctuary cities in Texas only because Lt. Gov. Dewhurst killed the bill that would have ended sanctuary cities. Had the Texas Legislature passed that bill—had Lt. Governor Dewhurst not run from the fight and prevented its passage—then today’s decision would have upheld that Texas law as well. We need leaders who will get serious about enforcing the border: triple the border patrol; use walls, fences, and technology; end sanctuary cities; repeal Obama’s newly ordered amnesty; and end benefits like in-state tuition for illegal aliens."

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin: “The Court rightly rejected 3/4th of the Arizona law as unconstitutional, while reserving the right to reconsider implementation of the remaining provision.  That remaining “show me your papers” rule is very troubling.  Its implementation should be reevaluated because of racial profiling. Today’s decision only underlines the need for prompt, comprehensive immigration reform--write the DREAM Act into law for youth and let those immigrants, who have been longstanding, law abiding, tax paying residents, pay a penalty and get in line to become citizens. Even Rick Perry said the Arizona law was not right for Texas.  Thankfully the Court said it was wrong for America.”

U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso: “Today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on the Arizona law, better known as SB 1070, is a move in the right direction. However, the unanimous decision to uphold the ‘Show Me Your Papers’ provision that allows a police officer or local law enforcement agency to ask for the legal status of a person being detained or arrested hurts communities across our country. This ruling underscores the need for Congress to take up this federal issue and work on a Comprehensive Immigration Reform package that addresses it. I call on my colleagues – both Democrats and Republicans – to do the right thing and address Comprehensive Immigration Reform. It is unfortunate that partisan politics being played by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives does not allow us, those with common sense, to move meaningful and important immigration legislation forward. For 26 ½ years, I served as a Border Patrol agent and then sector chief and worked to uphold immigration laws in this country, and today, I know first-hand the dire need to reform these same laws. I will continue to support Comprehensive Immigration Reform that secures our country, unites families, helps our country’s economic prosperity and ends a shadow world for millions of people living here.”

State Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso: "I am deeply troubled by the decision handed down today by the Supreme Court. To give state and local law enforcement officers the power to act as federal immigration officers is a recipe for disaster. As a result of today's decision, I am confident that there will be several pieces of legislation filed during the next legislative session requiring Texas law enforcement officers to ask immigration status. These harmful measures hurt the ability of our police to develop and foster relationships with immigrant communities -- relationships critical in combating and solving crime. Once this law goes into effect in Arizona, and once cases of discrimination come to the forefront as a result of this measure, I feel confident that it will be reexamined and repealed by the Supreme Court. The critical question that still remains is whether or not the Arizona law will result in racial profiling."  

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston: “The action that needs to be taken now in response to the Supreme Court decision regarding Arizona’s misguided law is for Congress to now pass comprehensive immigration reform law. Major parts of the legislation that continue to clearly show over reach have been found unconstitutional; particularly when Arizona reached into federal government laws. The Supreme Court reaffirmed that today with their decision. The Court correctly struck down wrongheaded policies that would have pushed families, workers, and senior citizens into the criminal justice system. But the Court made an error in upholding the discriminatory ‘show me your papers’ provision that violates people’s basic rights. This is not the final word on ‘show me your papers’ laws. There will always be a fight in the courts and legislatures to protect America’s basic rights. Finally this case is not complete. If Arizona precedes under the narrow provisions remaining of the law I believe in short order the state will be subject to charges of racial profiling and just as Rosa Parks started the journey to the federal courts to declare unconstitutional segregated accommodations, I believe the final aspect of the Arizona law will be struck down on the grounds of due process and equal rights. It will only be a matter of time until we all see that the Arizona law is but a meager limping downsized measure of the original legislation and rightly so. The Republican led house should get to work and do real comprehensive immigration reform.”

The Texas Civil Rights Project Director Jim Harrington: “This is a great victory against those who would use the immigration issue for their political agenda, regardless of the harm it caused to immigrant families, who often have both documented and undocumented members living together in the United States and trying to make a living. It also removes a blatant pretext for discrimination against members of the Hispanic community, who have long and deep roots in this country and are citizens or have legal status."

ACLU of Texas Executive Director Terri Burke: “The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court today to uphold the discriminatory ‘show me your papers’ part of SB 1070, Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, shows just how out of touch the court is with reality. When the Texas Legislature defeated a copycat proposal in 2011, they joined with a coalition of business, law enforcement, local government, religious and civil rights leaders because these bad proposals hurt state economies and reputations. Regardless of today’s Supreme Court decision, the tide has turned against laws like these. States are saying no to ‘show me your papers’ laws because they harm business, undermine police work and threaten basic American and Texas values. We’ve seen the corrosive effects that ‘show me your papers’ laws have on a community. Anti-immigrant laws are a stain on the fundamental freedoms the Constitution guarantees. Texas has already spoken: We will not follow the lead of those who would harm our economy and trample the rights of those who live in our great state.”

U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston: “The Supreme Court’s ruling this morning affirms that immigration and borders are federal responsibilities. This ruling should signal the urgency for Congress and the Administration to take on comprehensive immigration reform on a bipartisan basis that secures our nation’s borders while dealing with those here fairly and humanely.”

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Conroe: “I am disappointed because when Washington fails to do its job to keep citizens secure, the states ought to be able to act. In my view President Obama should be working with local law enforcement to secure our borders, not fighting our states in the courts. The President’s ‘amnesty first’ ideology has real consequences for families and businesses in border states like ours. I’m pleased that [provision allowing local law enforcement to check a suspect’s immigration status] was upheld, but I strongly disagree with the rest of the Supreme Court’s decision in this case. Our states should never be forced to risk the safety of their citizens because of the White House’s failure to enforce our nation’s immigration laws. I hope Arizona and other states continue fighting for their right to have a safe and secure state for their citizens to live.”

State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin: “Today's decision leaves intact parts of an Arizona law that all-but-encourage discrimination against full-blooded Americans over the color of their skin. The law was always a reactionary response to the federal government’s sad failure to address immigration in this country: it divides and weakens us as a nation. While the Court was right to reject key pieces of it, the truth is that no part of it – particularly the "show me your papers" provision that the Court maintained – should be law, whether it was upheld or not. We need a Texas solution to the immigration issue that secures our borders, shows zero tolerance to those who commit serious crimes, and recognizes those who meet stringent requirements to serve our country and contribute productively to our economy. And we must assure that nothing so discriminatory becomes law in Texas. Texas can do better, and Texans deserve better, than something as poisonous and nonsensical as the Arizona experiment. Unfortunately, in last year’s session alone, those in control of the Texas Legislature worked successfully to make it harder for minorities to vote. They also tried, unsuccessfully, to follow Arizona’s lead in having local law enforcement enforce federal immigration law. And for the first time in memory, they slashed funding for public schools – schools that are needed more and more to teach Hispanic students who represent so much of Texas’ future. Such initiatives disproportionately affect Hispanics, and they helped make the last legislative session a distinctly anti-Hispanic one. It’s critical to Texas’ future that these efforts cease. Unfortunately, today’s Supreme Court decision will ultimately make them more likely.”

State Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas: "As I have said before many times, immigration reform is such a complex and complicated issue, it is best left at the hands of our federal government and law enforcement officials at that level of government, not the local police. Allowing local police to still ask for immigration status is such a difficult issue that it will create nothing but chaos and more problems than we already have to deal with. Local enforcement officials are hired primarily to deal with local issues, and not deal with federal issues. And they are busy enough and overworked enough with local issues. We certainly do not need to add another layer of  federal bureaucracy, red tape, and complex job requirements that they do have the training, knowledge, or experience to deal with or address adequately. This would be unfair, not only to the local police officers themselves, but the individuals who would be unfairly targeted and racially profiled. Additionally, as I have consistently said in the past, SB 1070 would set a bad precedent, as it would open the doors for all fifty states to do the same and in essence allow state and local police to have 'inherent authority to enforce all immigration law.' Can you imagine having fifty different immigration laws, when all we need is just one at the federal level? Immigration law is and should fall under the jurisdiction of our federal government, not of our state and local governments. Additionally, fifty different jurisdictions making fifty different sets of rules regulating immigrants would fundamentally negate the federal government's interest in a coherent and unified foreign policy, not to mention its interest in facilitating interstate commerce. Permitting individual states, counties and other local municipalities to do the same would exponentially increase the chaos.”

State Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston: "Today's decision by the Supreme Court affirms my belief that Arizona overstepped its lawmaking authority in enacting an unconstitutional law that was nothing more than an intimidation tactic to insert fear upon specific groups of people. While I do applaud the court in striking down key provisions of the Arizona law, the decision to uphold the portion that authorizes local law enforcement to check the immigration status of individuals they suspect are not in the United States legally could lead to racial profiling and other legal consequences. Texas should not look to Arizona as a model of how to handle immigration reform. The legal ramifications coupled with the impending litigation that is certain to occur is a fiscal burden Texas cannot afford. Immigration is a federal issue and states should not propose laws that undermine the federal government's exclusive authority."

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston: “I am very pleased with this decision; we got nearly everything we wanted. The Court ruled that almost all of the harsh provisions of Arizona’s new immigration scheme are trumped by federal law. This ruling is a defeat for those who are trying to use “states’ rights” rhetoric to enact their agenda. It has long been established by the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution that federal law is supreme and may not be countered or circumvented by state law in areas that are meant to be governed exclusively by federal law. This ruling makes it clear that immigration is one of those areas that is under the purview of the federal government, not the states. The Supreme Court is tentatively allowing one provision to stand: the requirement that Arizona police officers must inquire into the immigration status of an individual during a lawful stop or arrest if that officer reasonably believes the individual might be undocumented. This provision is obviously troublesome, as it invites unnecessary racial profiling that will affect American citizens as well as both legal and undocumented aliens. It will institutionalize the idea of natural born suspects. The Court is also troubled by this provision, but for now they will wait to see how Arizona applies it. The Court’s instructions, however, leave no doubt that this too will be struck unless it is applied very, very narrowly. The Supreme Court’s ruling on SB 1070 has particular ramifications for Texas, since Republicans here tried last session to implement many of the exact provisions the Court just invalidated in Arizona. People of color, particularly those in the Latino community, can all breathe a little easier now that the Court has put a clear limit on the ability of states to target some populations under the guise of immigration reform.”

Texas Democratic Party: “Today’s Supreme Court decision only further underscores the need for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level. We cannot have a patchwork of state immigrations laws that tie the hands of law-enforcement and drive a wedge between police and the communities they are supposed to protect. Police officers should focus on targeting dangerous criminals and not spend their limited resources inquiring about a person’s immigration status. Unfortunately, Rick Perry and his Republicans colleagues continue to use Latinos as a political piñata to earn points with extremists in their Party. Here in our state, Republicans attempted to enact a myriad of burdensome immigration laws that would have unfairly targeted Latinos. We need a comprehensive solution that focuses on the economic realities of our country, not ill-advised state proposals meant to prop-up Rick Perry for yet another presidential run.”

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio: “I am disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision today, which limits the ability of states to protect their citizens and communities from illegal immigrants. It is the federal government’s job to enforce our immigration laws, but President Obama has willfully neglected this responsibility.  This dereliction of duty has left states to address the crime, job loss, and other costs of illegal immigration. “Unfortunately, under this Administration, today’s ruling essentially puts an end to immigration enforcement since the states no longer can step in and fill the void created by the Obama administration.  This is especially bad news for border states since they have to deal with border violence, drug trafficking and illegal immigration. Throughout the past three years, President Obama and his administration have ignored our immigration laws and have encouraged more illegal immigration by their actions.  President Obama has abused his executive branch authority to allow potentially millions of illegal immigrants to live and work in the U.S.  And under this Administration, worksite enforcement has plummeted 70%, allowing illegal immigrants to hold jobs while 13 million Americans are looking for work. According to a recent poll, two-thirds of the American people want to see our laws enforced.  But President Obama puts illegal immigrants and his partisan agenda ahead of the interests of the American people.  If our immigration laws are going to be enforced, we need a new President this January who will enforce immigration laws, not deliberately ignore them.”

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio: "I'm thankful that most of the law was struck down, but the opinion left open the distinct possibility that the part it upheld, the roadside checks, could still be open to other court challenges. I hope Texas doesn't follow Arizona's lead in this regard — it would be ironic if a state that pushed so hard for tort reform passed a law that would invite litigation."

State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston: “The Supreme Court ruling on states’ attempts to regulate immigration shows how important comprehensive immigration reform is to this nation. However, a realistic policy that ensures economic growth while not wasting taxpayer money in endless litigation and costly Berlin-type walls has become impossible under Republicans in control. Their venomous anti-immigrant rhetoric keeps common sense solutions off the table. People must act to elect leaders that solve problems rather than incite them.”

State Rep. and MALC Chairman Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio: “Today, the United States Supreme Court affirmed what MALC has said all along, ill-advised state action on immigration policy is unconstitutional. MALC applauds the Court for recognizing the role of immigration in the future of our nation and the need for the federal government to have clear authority on immigration matters. Most of Arizona’s discriminatory S.B. 1070 is preempted by federal immigration law and state action is no substitute for comprehensive immigration reform.”


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