In a mixed ruling, the Supreme Court today struck down key parts of SB 1070, Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant law. The nation’s leading organizations advocating on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population and people living with HIV/AIDS responded to the ruling and expressed support for comprehensive immigration reform that includes LGBT people and their families.
Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality said, “We join fair-minded Americans who have voiced strong opposition to this law. Unfortunately our research demonstrates that transgender people across the country already are often reluctant to seeking police assistance or treatment for a medical problem because of fear of discrimination. Transgender immigrants, many of whom came to this country to escape violence and persecution, should not be put in further fear by draconian laws like SB 1070.”
The “show-me-your-papers” provision in SB 1070 is clearly discriminatory but unfortunately was not struck down. LGBT immigrants and LGBT people of color remain particularly vulnerable because this provision in SB 1070 requires police to stop and question people based on their appearance. The LGBT community knows all too well how easily people who are perceived to “look different” or “act different” can be singled out for harassment and persecution. The law particularly threatens LGBT people of color and LGBT immigrants, many of whom already experience heightened hostility, harassment, and even violence based on their appearance, behavior, dress, and other characteristics. This wrongful treatment often occurs at the hands of local officials who lack a basic understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression diversity.
Keisling said, “So while the discriminatory ‘papers please’ provision will continue, transgender people—people who already face difficulty getting accurate I.D.—celebrate the Court’s rejection of criminalizing undocumented immigrants who don’t have I.D. with them when they are stopped by police.” Keisling added, “SB1070 has been disastrous for neighborhoods across Arizona and in states that have adopted similar laws. And remember that even American citizens have been harmed, targeted and even deported because of these laws.”
As the Supreme Court recognized in its majority decision today: “Immigration policy shapes the destiny of the Nation,” and the “history of the United States is in part made of the stories, talents, and lasting contributions of those who crossed oceans and deserts to come here.” The Court has made clear that states “may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.” For example, Arizona cannot create its own system for immigration registration, impose criminal penalties on immigrants who are seeking work, or make warrantless arrests of immigrants based on possibility of removability. This recognition is an important victory for people and communities across the United States. Instead of targeting and criminalizing immigrants and other marginalized groups, communities should be enacting and implementing forward-looking, progressive measures that integrate, protect and ensure equality for all people, including immigrants.
Today’s mixed ruling strikes down key parts of a bad law. But the fact remains that our nation’s immigration system is broken, and we need comprehensive immigration reform that is fair to everyone, and is inclusive of LGBT immigrants and their families. We will work with our allies in the immigrant rights community to make this reform a reality, and call on Congress to move swiftly to correct the flaws riddling the present immigration system and provide a path to legalization for the nation’s undocumented immigrants.