When Arizona first passed SB 1070 in 2010, I was asked by a local TV station what I thought of the law. I told the reporter that I fully supported it. The reporter asked whether the bill would necessitate racial profiling. In admittedly inelegant terms, I said, “I do not want the police, here, there, pulling people over because you look like you should be pulled over.” However, I explicitly stated that SB 1070 would do no such thing, which is why I supported it.
The station played that clip without context to suggest I opposed SB 1070. “SB 1070 is so extreme, even Tom Tancredo opposes it” became a meme. On “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart said, “The man Mexican parents tell their kids about to get them to eat their vegetables thought it was going too far. Arizona, that’s gotta tell you something.”
As this small anecdote demonstrates, the media has done a poor job covering SB 1070. The same can be said of the coverage of Monday’s Supreme Court decision blocking parts of SB 1070 but upholding the constitutionality of its centerpiece, Section 2(b), which requires police to verify the legal status of those who they reasonably suspect to be in this country illegally.
Politicians, activists and reporters have focused on the fact that the Supreme Court struck down three of the four SB 1070 provisions at issue to spin the decision in Arizona v. U.S. as some sort of catastrophic defeat for supporters of immigration laws. Shortly after the ruling was announced, Thomas Saenz, the president of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF), said, “The decision sends a strong warning to any states or localities that have enacted or that may be considering enacting their own immigration regulation schemes.” In a fundraising email, the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) claimed that the court struck down “most” of the law. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that the Supreme Court struck down “the vast majority of the Arizona law.”
But this is just flat-out false. The vast majority of SB 1070′s provisions weren’t even reviewed by the court. Those provisions — which, among other things, crack down on employers of illegal aliens, outlaw sanctuary cities, fight human smuggling and create a taskforce to deal with illegal alien gang members — in addition to Section 2(b), remain intact. Groups like the SPLC and politicians like Majority Leader Reid are trying to claim victory in order to intimidate other states from passing similar laws.
Since leaving Congress, I have campaigned across the country to encourage other states to pass laws modeled after SB 1070, and the biggest objection I have heard from state legislators is that they do not want to be sued by MALDEF, the ACLU, the SPLC or the Obama administration. Monday’s decision makes avoiding those lawsuits easier. Now, states can use Arizona v. U.S., as well as the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Arizona’s E-Verify law last year in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, as guideposts when crafting their own immigration laws. Those laws will not be exactly the same as SB 1070, but they will incorporate the parts that have already been upheld.
Regardless of what the politicians and activists say, the Supreme Court’s decision in Arizona v. U.S. is a victory for Arizona, and will lead to more states passing similar laws next year.
Tom Tancredo represented Colorado’s 6th Congressional District from 1999 until 2009. While in Congress, he chaired the bipartisan, 100-plus-member Immigration Reform Caucus. He currently serves as chairman of Team America PAC and The Rocky Mountain Foundation.