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Bishop Says Court Decision Shows Need for Federal Immigration Reform

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The United State Supreme Court’s ruling June 25, 2012, that struck down a large portion of Arizona’s 2010 immigration law (SB 1070) has, in effect, affirmed the federal government’s right to establish laws and procedures dealing with the nation’s immigration policies.

The Arizona law had made it a crime for non-citizens who are unlawfully present in the United States to work in Arizona and required police officers to check the immigration status of any person whom they have probable cause to believe is an illegal immigrant.

The three parts of the law struck down by the justices are:

  • One making it a crime for an illegal immigrant to work or to seek work in Arizona;
  • One which authorized state and local officers to arrest people without a warrant if the officers have probable cause to believe a person is an illegal immigrant;
  • And one that made it a state requirement for immigrants to register with the federal government.

While striking down most key provisions of the law, the Court upheld the provision that requires state and local police officers, during routine stops, to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect could be in the country illegally.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling is a clear indication of the federal government’s role in establishing immigration policy in our country,” Bishop Michael F. Burbidge said. “The fact that several states and local communities have felt the need to address the immigration situation demonstrates the urgent need required of Congress and the Administration to address this issue without further delay.

“The need for comprehensive immigration reform in the United States is long overdue,” Bishop Burbidge added. “While our nation has every right to protect its borders from illegal entry, comprehensive immigration reform should provide for fair and just treatment of those seeking to enter our country legally as temporary residents or those seeking eventual citizenship.”

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration, expressed concern regarding the provision that permits state law enforcement personnel to determine the immigration status of any person stopped, detained, or arrested if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is not lawfully in the United States.

In the opinion, the justices left the door open that the provision that was upheld — known as 2(B) of SB 1070 — could later be found unconstitutional.

“While we are concerned with the Court decision not to uphold section 2 (B) of the law, we are encouraged that the Court did not rule it constitutional,” Archbishop Gomez said. “As we articulated in our amicus brief, the implementation of this provision could lead to the separation of families and undermine the Church’s ability to minister to the immigrant population.

“We stand in solidarity with our brother bishops in Arizona, as they prepare to respond to the implementation of this provision and its potential human consequences,” Archbishop Gomez said.