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Supreme Court strikes down key provisions of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law

June 25, 2012

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a longtime advocate for comprehensive and humane immigration reform, responded to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling today striking down significant portions of SB 1070, Arizona’s anti-immigrant law. The court did, however, leave intact the racist “show me your papers” provision.

The Task Force has repeatedly spoken out against the unjust law, including when it was signed into law, calling it “draconian and inhumane;” joining with more than 20 LGBT organization in a statement calling for an end to SB 1070; and calling on Congress to pass comprehensive and inclusive immigration reform.

Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey said:

This ruling strikes down some key provisions of a draconian law that makes people more vulnerable to abuse. SB 1070 and laws like it only serve to divide us by opening the door to racial profiling, infringement of civil rights, and harassment and violence against those seen as ‘different.’ While we are encouraged by parts of today’s decision, the path has been cleared for the most offensive portion of the law – the ‘show me your papers’ provision – to take effect. Nobody should be forced to live in constant fear of having their family torn part, of being separated from their loved ones, while simply trying to go about their daily lives.

The bottom line is that Arizona’s anti-immigrant law is a license to discriminate. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people know all too well how easily those who are perceived to ‘look different’ or ‘act different’ can be singled out for persecution.

This ruling spotlights the critical need for comprehensive immigration reform, and we continue to urge Congress to make it a priority. Laws that target and demonize people are not the answer; stripping people of their civil liberties and humanity is not the answer. Our political leaders must work toward reform that is fair and humane. SB 1070  was a cruel, ill-conceived idea that wasted taxpayer dollars and demeaned our country’s values of fairness and freedom.

The Task Force also signed onto a joint statement with dozens of LGBT and HIV/AIDS groups, which reads:

In a mixed ruling, the Supreme Court today struck down key parts of SB 1070, Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant law. The nation’s leading organizations advocating on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population and people living with HIV/AIDS responded to the ruling and expressed support for comprehensive immigration reform that includes LGBT people and their families.

The ‘show me your papers’ provision in SB 1070 is clearly discriminatory but unfortunately was not struck down.  LGBT immigrants and LGBT people of color remain particularly vulnerable because this provision in SB 1070 requires police to stop and question people based on their appearance. The LGBT community knows all too well how easily people who are perceived to ‘look different’ or ‘act different’ can be singled out for harassment and persecution.  The law particularly threatens LGBT people of color and LGBT immigrants, many of whom already experience heightened hostility, harassment, and even violence based on their appearance, behavior, dress, and other characteristics. This wrongful treatment often occurs at the hands of local officials who lack a basic understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression diversity.

SB 1070, and the copycat laws it has spawned in other states, exacerbate the fear and distrust that dissuade many LGBT immigrants and LGBT people of color from seeking protection from – or offering to assist – law-enforcement officials. While leaving the ‘show me your papers’ provision in effect is a setback for the cause of civil rights in America, the court left the door open for advocates to challenge this bad part of the law by showing that it discriminates and harms people.  Along with other advocates devoted to immigrant rights and racial justice, we will fight to protect basic civil rights and we won’t stop until we win respect, dignity and equal treatment under the law for everyone.

As the Supreme Court recognized in its majority decision today: ‘Immigration policy shapes the destiny of the Nation,’ and the ‘history of the United States is in part made of the stories, talents, and lasting contributions of those who crossed oceans and deserts to come here.’ The Court has made clear that states ‘may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.’  For example, Arizona cannot create its own system for immigration registration, impose criminal penalties on immigrants who are seeking work, or make warrantless arrests of immigrants based on possibility of removability.  This recognition is an important victory for people and communities across the United States.  Instead of targeting and criminalizing immigrants and other marginalized groups, communities should be enacting and implementing forward-looking, progressive measures that integrate, protect and ensure equality for all people, including immigrants.

Today’s mixed ruling strikes down key parts of a bad law. But the fact remains that our nation’s immigration system is broken, and we need comprehensive immigration reform that is fair to everyone, and is inclusive of LGBT immigrants and their families. We will work with our allies in the immigrant rights community to make this reform a reality, and call on Congress to move swiftly to correct the flaws riddling the present immigration system and provide a path to legalization for the nation’s undocumented immigrants.

List of signatories:

  • LGBT Progress at the Center for American Progress
  • AFL-CIO—Pride at Work
  • Atticus Circle
  • Center Link: The Community of LGBT Centers
  • COLAGE
  • Consortium of Higher Education Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Professionals
  • Equality Federation
  • Family Equality Council
  • Freedom to Marry
  • GLAAD
  • Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)
  • Gay & Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA)
  • Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
  • HIV Law Project
  • Human Rights Campaign
  • Immigration Equality
  • International Federation of Black Prides, Inc.
  • Latino Commission on AIDS
  • PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
  • Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
  • The National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD)
  • National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC)
  • National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)
  • National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE)
  • National Coalition for LGBT Health
  • National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
  • National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund
  • National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
  • Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
  • Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF)

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