Friday, June 03, 2011

On Wrong Side of History Again: Supreme Court Upholds Law Aimed at Immigrant Workers

by the Coalicion de Derechos Humanos

Last week, the Supreme Court upheld the 2007 Arizona Legal Workers Act which mandates the use of E-Verify by all Arizona employers and allows Arizona courts to revoke business licenses of employers found to "knowingly or intentionally" hire undocumented workers.

The Act was originally signed into law by former state governor Janet Napolitano in 2007 and challenged by a broad coalition of business and civil rights groups. While the decision does not explicitly address other state immigration laws, such as Arizona's draconian SB 1070, it follows a long history of racist persecution of undocumented people and communities of color.

In effect, the decision sends a green light for continued raids in Arizona and the enactment of similar forms of racist and anti-immigrant legislation in other states.

For over a hundred years, workers from Mexico and other Latin American countries have been actively encouraged by businesses and the federal government to enter the US in an unauthorized fashion. Through their sweat and toil, these workers and their families have built important sectors of the country's economy, while undergoing the cruelest forms of degradation. In light of such a history, the Supreme Court's decision yesterday is shameful and hypocritical.

Rather than addressing US foreign policy and free trade agreements which have been responsible for the mass displacement of workers in Mexico and other parts of the world, this decision is based on the erroneous premise that penalizing employers will address the immigration issue. Employer sanctions will not stop people from leaving loved ones behind, and undergoing untold amounts of risk to enter the US to survive or join their families.

Moreover, employer sanctions in the past have clearly shown that it is the worker, and not the employer, who bears the brunt of such measures. We have seen how such measures in Arizona have driven workers into the underground economy and into even more abusive and precarious working and living conditions. Only days after Joe Arpaio announced his 20th raid in Phoenix, this misdirected decision will simply give more license to criminalize and persecute undocumented communities and communities of color.

This decision comes at a moment when the Arizona economy is in dire straits. This measure will increase regulation in a way that will result in intrusive police enforcement at the work-site and create tremendous financial costs. Building and administering a flawed E-Verify system, hiring additional enforcement agents, and conducting more inspections, raids and prosecutions will be an additional economic burden on Arizona residents who already suffer from the lack of resources for basic services in education, healthcare, jobs and infrastructure.

The Supreme Court has stood on the wrong side of history before. In 1857, the Court ruled that people of African descent could never be US citizens and were not protected by the Constitution. Four decades later, the Court upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation under the "separate but equal" doctrine. In 1944, the Court ruled the constitutionality of the government order to force Japanese Americans into internment camps. In all these shameful instances and others, the Court sanctified the oppression of vulnerable groups. And just like these earlier rulings, the 2011 decision will also one day be relegated to the dustbin of history.


Coalicion de Derechos Humanos

P.O. Box 1286
Tucson, AZ 85702

Office: 520.770.1373
Or 1.800.682.4280
Fax: 520.770.7455

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