United Methodist advocates for comprehensive immigration reform see the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s immigration law, SB 1070, as progress. But they are disappointed by the upholding of a provision that allows police to check the immigration status of anyone detained if there is reasonable suspicion the person might in the United States illegally.
They say that provision allows for racial profiling.
“While it was disappointing to see the Supreme Court of the United States uphold the likely continuing of racial profiling by Arizona law enforcement against Arizona’s residents, the fact that the rest of this misguided legislation was struck down is quite significant,” said Bill Mefford, staff of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society. “Immigration reform must be handled by the federal government. . . . Reform can and must be passed this year and it must be just and humane.”
Immigration reform has been at the top of the list for the past several years for Mr. Mefford and the social action agency as well as thousands of other United Methodists and faith leaders.
The ruling got “some parts right,” said the Rev. John L. McCullough, a United Methodist pastor and executive director and CEO of Church World Service, a United Methodist partner. Racial profiling was left “to another day and thus prolonged civil and human rights abuses in Arizona,” he said.
The Rev. Jim Perdue, a United Methodist immigration missionary, said that while several groups say the ruling was a step backward, he is “a little more guarded” about the ruling. Mr. Perdue serves at the Desert Southwest Conference and on immigration issues for the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.
“The justices argued that Section 2 in and of itself doesn’t tread on the rights of individuals or on the sovereignty of the federal government, but it has the potential to,” he said. “It all depends upon how the law is enforced.”
“The opinion of the court, by taking great pains to outline the possible ways that the law can create harm, also stands as a clear warning to law enforcement in Arizona and other states that they will be watched for specific rights violations,” he said.
Bishop Julius C. Trimble (Iowa Conference) said the journey toward humane immigration reform continues. He believes the Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s law—as well as President Obama’s recent decision to stop deportation of certain young people—is good news.
“This does not alleviate the need for United Methodists and persons of faith to continue to advocate for humane treatment of all citizens including those persons who may not have legal documentation,” he said. Bishop Trimble and Bishop Minerva Carcaño are co-leaders of the United Methodist Interagency Task Force on Immigration.
Bishop Carcaño (Desert Southwest Conference) has been a vocal opponent of the Arizona law since it was enacted in 2010. She said the impact of the law “has been nothing but devastating” to Arizonans.
“The centerpiece of this legislation has allowed for racial profiling, which has created fear in Arizona’s residents and weakened trust in local law enforcement. While I celebrate the fact that the Supreme Court ruled the majority of SB 1070 unconstitutional, I am disappointed that the provision for local law enforcement to continue to function as immigration officials has largely been left in place,” she said in reaction to the Supreme Court ruling.