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City Pages

Last week, the United States Supreme Court struck down three provisions of Arizona’s anti-immigrant legislation (SB 1070), but upheld the law’s controversial provision that allows police to check the immigration status of people they stop for any standard reason. The three provisions deemed unconstitutional were the requirement that legal immigrants carry documentation at all times, the rights of police officers to make arrests without warrants and the prohibition of the rights of undocumented immigrants to seek employment.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the legislation into law in April, 2010. It was scheduled to go into effect at the end of that July, but a federal judge issued an injunction against its most controversial provisions.

While the Supreme Court decided to uphold the “show me your papers†clause, it also made it clear that the provision can still be subject to more legal action should its implementation lead to racial profiling. In Athens, opponents of the law are not very comforted by this declaration.

“I do not see how the ‘show me your papers’ section can be enforced without racial profiling and discrimination,†said Betina Kaplan, a University of Georgia professor who also teaches at Freedom University, an organization that offers college-level classes to students free of charge, regardless of their immigration status.

Pundits and politicians on both sides of the aisle are claiming the ruling as a victory. But the court’s decision is not sitting well with civil rights groups. Those challenging the constitutionality of the “show me your papers” provision claim it is an invitation for police to racially profile, which sustains a climate of fear in the undocumented community.

Opponents of Georgia’s copycat legislation, HB 87, are uncertain what this ruling will mean for the state’s undocumented population.

“I would say the reaction in my community is fear,†said Beto, an undocumented immigrant in Athens. “I received a call from my brother and he said, ‘Did you see the news? What’s going to happen now?’ But I could hear the fear on his voice.â€

The court ruling indicates that at least some of HB 87 could be upheld in later proceedings, which would eliminate the injunction that a U.S. District Court judge placed on the law’s most controversial measures, citing that their intent is to create “a climate of hostility, fear, mistrust and insecurity.â€

But even in advance of a ruling on the Georgia law, undocumented immigrants like Beto are fearful that the ruling will mean more police stops that result in Immigration and Customs Enforcement holds.

Others are more optimistic about the ruling. Ian Altman, an English teacher at Clarke Central High School and a vocal proponent of the DREAM Act, is excited. “I think the ruling on Arizona’s SB 1070 is fantastic,” he said. “It basically guts the law… I also think it means Georgia’s HB 87 will be struck down in federal court, and that will be a very good day for this state.â€

Whatever the outcomes of future legal action against the Arizona law and others like it, interested parties on both sides are waiting to see how last week’s ruling may affect the Obama administration’s recent announcement of a policy directive that will give certain undocumented immigrants the opportunity to apply for deferred action status.