Ohio, Ky. May Consider Get-Tough Immigration Laws
June 26, 2012
8:09 AM, Jun. 26, 2012
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Monday to uphold part of Arizona’s get-tough immigration law has opened the door for Ohio and Kentucky to join a growing list of states moving to enact statutes aimed at reducing their population of illegal immigrants.
Ohio state Rep. Courtney Combs, a Republican from Ross Township in Butler County, and John Schickel, a Republican state senator from Union, Ky., said Monday they plan to reintroduce their previous legislation now that the high court has ruled on Arizona’s law.
The high court ruled in favor of the section of Arizona’s law known as “show me your papers,” which allows police to check immigration status during a lawful stop. Still, it struck down other provisions that would have made state crimes out of federal immigration violations.
Anticipation of Monday’s Supreme Court rulings was extraordinarily high because of expectations of a ruling on the constitutionality of the sweeping health care law signed in 2010 by President Obama. That ruling is now expected Thursday, but the Arizona decision enabling law enforcement to detain people who cannot produce proof of legal residency or citizenship also is significant.
The court’s ruling was the second major development on immigration in the past two weeks. On June 15, Obama announced an executive order to stop deportations of an estimated 800,000 young people who were brought illegally into the United States as children and begin granting them work permits.
Combs and other supporters of his immigration bill were waiting for the court to decide on Arizona’s law.
“There was no reason to proceed without it,” he said.
Schickel saw the Supreme Court’s ruling as a vindication of the “Arizona-style” illegal immigration proposal he introduced in the General Assembly in 2011, despite criticism of it as “draconian” and a path to racial profiling.
The legislation would have allowed local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of individuals they lawfully stop, detain or encounter in the course of their duties. Police could arrest those who couldn’t provide proof of legal residency.
“I think all around the country people are realizing the state government came before the federal government and states are sovereign and have the ability to make laws within their borders,” said Schickel, who thinks his bill might now stand a chance in the next legislative session in 2013.
Like the court decision on Arizona’s law, reaction to it was split locally.
“It’s upsetting that the whole thing was not struck down because it will lead to racial profiling,” said Fabiola Arce, 24, of Hebron, an adviser to a group of undocumented youth in Northern Kentucky.
A native of Mexico who lived illegally in the United States for 21 years before being granted asylum in 2010, Arce said she has a pale complexion, but her younger sister, a U.S.-born citizen, has much darker skin. “She would be detained, I would not be stopped,” said Arce, who completed her master’s degree in secondary education at Xavier University and will begin teaching this year at DePaul Christo Rey High School, Clifton.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Monday released a statement of cautious optimism following the court’s announcement, encouraged that most of the law was struck down, including a requirement that immigrants carry papers proving their legal residency.
“It is now abundantly clear that states should not pursue legislation similar to Arizona’s, but should continue to put pressure on the federal government to get to the root of the problem and enact comprehensive immigration reform,” said Tony Stieritz, director of Catholic Social Action in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Even in upholding “show me your papers,” the court’s 5-3 majority appeared to recognize how difficult it might be to enforce and how it leaves police open to lawsuits from all sides – those who think it’s enforced either too aggressively or not aggressively enough.
“The nature and timing of this case counsel caution in evaluating (its) validity,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas would have allowed all the challenged provisions to take effect. Justice Samuel Alito would have allowed police to arrest undocumented immigrants who seek work, and also make arrests without warrants.
Five states – Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah – have adopted variations on Arizona's law. Parts of those laws also are on hold pending the outcome of the Supreme Court case.
Scott Wartman contributed.