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Will Racist Emails Obtained by ACLU-AZ Help Put the Final Stake in SB1070?

STOP 1070 City of Phoenix

(Courtesy of xomiele via

The ACLU hopes so; I hope so.  Governor Jan Brewer signed the hideous law in April of 2010.

Almost a month ago, the SCOTUS reviewed Arizona vs. United States, the lawsuit challenge brought by the Obama DoJ for Arizona’s usurping the federal government’s authority to regulate immigration laws and enforcement, not because they found the law particularly racially suspect.  The sole provision they left standing was Section 2(B), or what’s being called ‘the show us your papers’ section.  A majority of the Justices had concluded that federal law supersedes state laws in matters of immigration, and struck down the other provisions.  But they seemed to believe that the Obama DoJ that had brought the case failed to make a case for the section being unconstitutional.  2(B) mandates that Arizona law enforcement officers check the immigration status of every person they stop, detain, or arrest over the course of a day if there is ‘reasonable suspicion’ they are in the US illegally.

The ruling was expected to be a Very Big Deal, as other states have passed, or are considering, enacting similar laws, which many civil and immigrant rights group call ‘draconian’ and ‘constitutionally suspect’, or outright ‘unconstitutional.

The question at the core is: Is the law mandating racial profiling  unconstitutional under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments?  The Court indicated that it would be open to further arguments on those grounds.

Toward that end, on July 17, a coalition of civil rights organizations filed a suit in federal court to block implementation of Section 2(B), including evidence and claims that hadn’t been included in the Obama DoJ’s suit.  Valle del Sol v. Whiting, et al. will also seek to block a separate provision of SB 1070 that creates a state crime for “harboring” undocumented individuals that the Court has already declared unconstitutional while the ACLU continues to fight the remainder of SB1070 on other constitutional grounds.

From the ACLU:

“The ACLU will continue to challenge that the Arizona law invites racial profiling against people of color by law enforcement in violation of the equal protection guarantee and prohibition on unreasonable seizures under the 14th and Fourth Amendments, and infringes on the free speech rights of day laborers and others in Arizona. [snip]

Several prominent law enforcement groups, including the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, oppose the law because it diverts limited resources from law enforcement’s primary responsibility of providing protection and promoting public safety in the community and undermines trust and cooperation between local police and immigrant communities.”

And from the Arizona ACLU:

“Police chiefs across the country have long concluded that section 2B could not be implemented in a race-neutral manner. Immigration experts agree that there is no way to determine immigration status based on external or physical characteristics and that police will end up using race and ethnicity to decide who could be in the country without authorization.

“In a state that’s more than 30 percent Latino, requiring police to act as immigration agents is an invitation to racial profiling on a massive scale” said Omar Jadwat, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Police chiefs and communities know these laws don’t work, and we hope that the courts will continue to block them from going forward.”

All this is happening as finally, a civil rights lawsuit is underway against ‘America’s Toughest Sheriff’, the odious racist  Joe Arpaio.  It’s all been so hideous in Maricopa County for so many years, even the New York Times has caught on.  I have no idea what happened to the investigation the Obama DoJ announced it had undertaken on Arpaio a couple years ago; last I’d heard he was refusing to turn over the documents and files the Feds had ordered him to provide them, seemingly…with impunity.  But I digress; back to the emails.

Former Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, who was recalled last year, was one of the major authors of SB1070.  Pearce sits on the board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which organization crafted this bill, and per NPR’s investigation, was largely created to profit the private prison corporations like CCA and others.  According to NPR’s Laura Sullivan:

According to Corrections Corporation of America reports reviewed by NPR, executives believe immigrant detention is their next big market. Last year, they wrote that they expect to bring in “a significant portion of our revenues” from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that detains illegal immigrants. (my bold)

In the conference room, the group decided they would turn the immigration idea into a model bill. They discussed and debated language. Then, they voted on it.

“There were no ‘no’ votes,” Pearce said. “I never had one person speak up in objection to this model legislation.”

The bill was sent out of that Hyatt conference room and back to Arizona.”

Lobbying commenced at a high rate; high profits were at stake, and realizing that the mood was right for ginning up anger and fear against brown people from the south, the Arizona bill was passed into law.

Arizona papers like AZ Central reported on July 20 that the Arizona ACLU had obtained thousands of Pearce’s emails (pdf) through a public records request to the State Senate; the paper posted some of the more inflammatory messages online; has more. Legal experts believe that if it can be shown that racial discrimination were part of the bill’s underpinnings, the high court might be inclined to shut it down.  I would have thought that NPR’s investigation showing that the for-profit prison system was another major factor could also be damning; let me know what you think.

These are a few of the emails quoted by news and online sources:

  • “Can we maintain our social fabric as a nation with Spanish fighting English for dominance? … It’s like importing leper colonies and hope we don’t catch leprosy. It’s like importing thousands of Islamic jihadists and hope they adapt to the American Dream.”
    “They create enclaves of separate groups that shall balkanize our nation into fractured nightmares of social unrest and poverty.”
  • “Corruption is the mechanism by which Mexico operates. Its people spawn more corruption wherever they go because it is their only known way of life.”
  • “Tough, nasty illegals and their advocates grow in such numbers that law and order will not subdue them. They run us out of our cities and states. They conquer our language and our schools. They render havoc and chaos in our schools.”
  • “We are much like the Titanic as we inbreed millions of Mexico’s poor, the world’s poor and we watch our country sink.”

Well, you get the drift.  But it is to be hoped that the emails might help convince the Justices that it wasn’t simply designed to be what the bill’s title pretends:  The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act.  (I won’t comment on the title.)

Seth Wessler writing at Colorlines quotes Eric Holder immediately after the SCOTUS ruling as saying, “As the Court itself recognized, Section 2 is not a license to engage in racial profiling and I want to assure communities around this country that the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously enforce federal prohibitions against racial and ethnic discrimination.”  The statement’s confusing, at best, since his DoJ didn’t even argue the case on those grounds, leaving us to wonder why not?

Meanwhile, Justin Feldman, writing at Counterpunch, sheds some light on it as he asks about ‘The Missing Racial Profiling Argument’ in the case.  After posing a few purposely weak possibilities, he gets to the nub of it, that it would have undermined the entire approach of Obama’s immigration enforcement strategies.  Under Bush, the 287(g) program allowed a partnership between local law enforcement to be deputized into Immigrant and Customs Enforcement agents, which off-on-again arrangement with Maricopa County allowed Arpaio to run amok with his questionable deportations, tent cities, pink undies for prisoners, lack of medical care for prisoners, etc.  The program, according to Feldman, hasn’t grown since 2004.

What has become a massive security program is Obama’s DHS Secure Communities program, according to Wikipedia, an American deportation program that relies on partnership among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the interior immigration enforcement agency within the Department of Homeland Security, is the program manager.”

It was created strictly administratively after 9/11,  and mandated for all police departments across the nation; 93% are apparently now in compliance.  Officers are required to send scanned fingerprints of arrestees to ICE in order to determine the person’s immigration status.  I wonder if their lists are better than the federal ‘No Fly’ lists?

According to the Guardian, since 2009, more than 1 million immigrants were deported – a vast increase on levels under George Bush.   You can read more about their coverage of a new report from the Fair Immigration Movement here.

From Feldman again:

The massive expansion of Secure Communities has taken place with absolutely no analysis of the program’s effects on police practices regarding racial profiling. It turns out that DHS wrote up procedures to monitor every jurisdiction participating in Secure Communities. There is a statistical formula that is supposed to inform DHS if police are taking in a disproportionate number of immigrants and charging them with minor crimes as an excuse to scan their fingerprints.”

Through a FOIA request granted in February of 2012, he learned that the program ran for at least five years without monitoring departments for racial profiling.  Imagine that.

The criminal justice system may very well be the most unjust institution in the United States. The prison population quintupled since 1970 despite no increase in crime rates. A large majority of the people in prison, on probation, on parole, or “stopped and frisked” by police have black or brown skin. Under Bush, the criminal justice system flirted with the immigration system. Under Obama, the two are having a full-on affair. Their perverse encounter has absolutely disastrous effects, seeding fear within immigrant communities, deterring victims of crimes from coming forward, and further ingraining the myth that immigrants and people of color are criminals. The policy hasn’t even achieved ICE’s stated goal of focusing resources on deporting immigrants with criminal records.

While having SB1070’s Section 2(b) struck down on civil rights grounds would be an important step forward, the results would be even more profound if the case also created a legal precedent that changed policy at the federal level, breaking off the affair between police departments and immigration enforcement once and for all.”

I can’t possibly say anything better than that to end this; so I’ll let Los Lobos sing a few words instead.

(to be cross-posted at

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