Oregon groups, law enforcement respond to Supreme Court Ruling on Arizona’s Racial Profiling Law SB1070

Press Conference

June 25, 2012 – Oregon civil rights groups applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s outright rejection of most of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law. However, the Court’s wait-and-see approach to the “Show Me Your Papers” provision is a mistake that jeopardizes the rights of individuals around the country. It is utterly foreseeable that this law will result in racial profiling and unnecessary detention for people in Arizona.

“Racial profiling laws make us less safe,” said Francisco Lopez, Causa’s Executive Director. “When people are unfairly singled out based on their appearance, it increases fear and distrust of law enforcement leaving crime victims and witnesses less likely to assist police or cooperate with investigations.”

Lopez added, “And those who are undocumented or have family members and friends who are undocumented fear that any contact with police could lead to deportation and separation from loved ones.” 

“Arizona wanted a green light on state enforcement of federal immigration law and today the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a solid red light on three of the four provisions, and a blinking red light on the fourth,” said David Fidanque, Executive Director of the ACLU of Oregon.

Fidanque also noted that Oregon law has long prohibited state and local police from asking about a person’s immigration status unless that person has already been arrested for a crime.

“That’s the law here because Oregon police have always understood that it makes our state safer when all witnesses to crime can come forward to help police solve and prevent crimes,” Fidanque said. “Laws like Arizona’s encourage racial and ethnic profiling and undermine effective law enforcement.”

“Oregon is not Arizona, and we will continue to forge our own path,” Fidanque said. “We’ve seen the corrosive effects that laws like S.B. 1070 have had on communities in other states. There is a growing awareness of how laws like these harm business, undermine effective law enforcement, and threaten our most basic American values. They are proving to be a failed experiment and have been rejected in many other states.”

Portland Police Chief Mike Reese said that Oregon laws and policies that prevent racial and ethnic profiling are extremely important for public safety.

“Our mission is to protect all people in our community and local enforcement of federal immigration laws can negatively impact our relationship with our community,” said Chief Reese. “We provide service to all who need our help and to ask about a person's federal immigration status has the potential to keep victims of crime from coming forward and asking for police help.”

Reese added, “Local enforcement of federal immigration laws can undermine the trust and cooperative relationships we try to build with immigrant communities, which are essential elements of community policing.”

Lopez said Causa Oregon and its coalition partners and allies around the state will continue pushing Oregon political leaders to make Oregon more welcoming and safe for all of its residents.

“Causa and our allies have been registering voters and are mobilized at the ready to stop any anti-immigrant candidate, bill or initiative introduced that threatens our communities,” Lopez said.

On June 15th, President Obama made a bold move issuing a memo granting immediate deferred status to DREAM Act qualified youth. The memo knocked the wind out of Arizona’s law and several other anti-immigrant laws around the country. A follow-up poll issued by CNN showed that the President has popular support for his response to an issue Congress has refused to deal with.

“Congress needs to immediately pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to legalization and the DREAM Act, “said Lopez. “Refusing to take action like Congress has for this problem is dividing families and hurting our nation.”

National ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero announced today that the ACLU has amassed an $8.6 million war chest to mount an aggressive response against laws like Arizona’s. Romero said the fund will help underwrite continued litigation against similar measures, lobbying efforts and public education programs.