How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Post-Supreme Court, the state of state immigration enforcement laws


Photo by C. Elle/Flickr (Creative Commons)

An anti-HB 87 protest in Atlanta, Georgia, July 2011

While the same judge who blocked key provisions of SB 1070 in Arizona weights if and when its most controversial section will be enforced, the trickle-down from the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on SB 1070 in June has been taking effect in other states.

Earlier this week, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled both against and in favor of contested provisions of SB 1070-style laws in Alabama and Georgia, two of five states that have followed Arizona's lead since 2010. Here's a quick rundown of what held and didn't.

Alabama: Perhaps the most hotly contested provision of Alabama's HB 56 was one that would have required public schools to verify students' immigration status. The appeals court ruled this provision unconstitutional. At the same time, it upheld a provision similar to Arizona's still-contested Section 2(B), the so-called "papers please"provision that would allow local law enforcement to check the immigration status of people they suspect are in the country illegally and which was upheld by the Supreme Court, with the caveat that it could still face other challenges. From the Montgomery Advertiser:


SB 1070 in the Supreme Court: Three views of what may happen and what it would mean

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Two years after it was signed into law and many imitations later, Arizona's precedent-setting SB 1070 anti-illegal immigration law is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court next week. The high court, with one justice recused, is set to hear oral arguments April 25.

The federal government filed suit against the state of Arizona not long after SB 1070 was signed into law April 23, 2010, challenging the measure on the grounds that its provisions were “preempted” by federal immigration law. That July, on the eve of its implementation, four controversial provisions of the law - including one that empowered local police to check for immigration status based on "reasonable suspicion" that a person may be undocumented - were blocked by a federal judge in Phoenix.

After a federal appeals court upheld the lower court judge's decision, Arizona filed a petition with the Supreme Court: "The question presented," the petition reads, "is whether the federal im-migration laws preclude Arizona’s efforts at cooperative law enforcement and impliedly preempt these four provisions of S.B. 1070 on their face."


Colbert on Alabama and the farm jobs 'Americans would like to do' (Video)

In case you missed last night's The Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert provided his comic take on the farm labor-immigration crisis in Alabama, where many immigrant workers have walked off the job and left the state in the wake of a stringent anti-illegal immigration law.

Attempts to replace them with native-born American workers down on their luck haven't worked out, with farmers complaining that they aren't up to doing the backbreaking work of harvesting crops like hard-to-pick tomatoes. Colbert's take: That the immigrant workers were "stealing yet another thing that Americans would like to do."

"All Alabama was trying to do was free up those farm jobs that 'los ilegales' were taking from Americans," he quips. There's also a clip from his Congressional testimony last year.


Life imitating art? 'A Day Without a Mexican' plays out in Alabama

Watching this Associated Press video on the Washington Post website of desperate farmers in Alabama, trying to get their crops picked after a strict new anti-illegal immigration law has driven many Latino immigrants out of the state, reminded me of something I'd seen before.

In 2004, the political satire "A Day Without a Mexican" comically asked what might happen to California if all the Mexicans in the state mysteriously disappeared, bringing businesses, restaurants, and just about everything else dependent on immigrant labor to a halt.

Fast-forward to 2011: Latin American immigrants fearful of being deported under the new Alabama law have been packing up, leaving the state and their jobs. With Alabama's agricultural industry dependent on immigrant labor, farmers have been left in the lurch. An attempt to hire unemployed Americans to do the backbreaking work of harvesting crops isn't working out. "They're not physically in shape to do it, and, you know, probably not mentally tough enough to do it, some of them," one farmer complains in the video.


The Alabama ruling, SB 1070 and the Supreme Court: What's next?

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The U.S. Supreme Court Building, May 2006

As it begins its new term today, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to consider an appeal from the state of Arizona on SB 1070, the controversial 2010 anti-illegal immigration law that has since spurred copycat laws throughout the United States - but whose key provisions remain blocked by a federal judge's ruling in July of last year.

Among those provisions is one that would allow local police to check for immigration status if there is "reasonable suspicion" that people they encounter while conducting their work could be in the country illegally. But while this component of the law hasn't gone into effect in Arizona, it was just allowed in Alabama by a federal judge in Birmingham last week, who issued a contradictory ruling when considering an even stricter post-SB 1070 immigration crackdown measure in that state.