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Cities and Counties Ask United States Supreme Court to Strike Down Arizona’s Anti-Immigrant Law

Santa Clara County Leads Coordinated Opposition to SB 1070

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – Joined by the United States Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, and major cities and counties from across the nation, the County of Santa Clara, California filed an amicus curiae brief today with the United States Supreme Court urging the Court to strike down the most controversial provisions of the State of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, SB 1070.

The brief was filed in Arizona v. United States in support of the federal government, which brought the lawsuit to stop Arizona from implementing the law because it conflicts with the federal government’s exclusive authority over immigration matters. The Supreme Court will be reviewing a decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, issued in April of 2011, which held that four provisions of the Arizona law are unconstitutional. The Ninth Circuit ruling also prohibited Arizona from implementing those four provisions. The provisions of SB 1070 that are at issue in the case require state and local law enforcement officers in Arizona to question individuals’ immigration status, ask for immigration documents, and detain suspected undocumented immigrants.

“Arizona’s law is a direct assault on people’s civil rights, and allowing it to go into effect would increase fear of the police in immigrant communities nationwide,” said Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President George Shirakawa. “Public safety depends on all residents knowing they can call local officers for help when they need it. We’ve worked hard in our communities to ensure that local police and sheriffs are not seen as part of the federal immigration enforcement system. Arizona’s law forces local police and sheriffs to pursue potential civil immigration violations at the expense of their number one priority - protecting the safety of our communities.”

Santa Clara County’s amicus brief is joined by 41 cities and counties, including several major cities within Arizona. Also joining the brief are the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the official organization of U.S. cities with populations of 30,000 or more, of which there are approximately 1,200, and the National League of Cities, the country’s largest and oldest organization serving municipal government, representing more than 19,000 United States cities and towns.

In their brief, the cities and counties argue that the provisions of the law under consideration are unconstitutional, impractical, costly, and deeply damaging to the relationships law enforcement agencies have built with immigrant communities and the public at large that allow them to protect public safety.

“The enjoined provisions of SB 1070 wrongly suggest to the public that the enforcement of federal civil immigration law is the responsibility of local officials, and that basic constitutional principles do not apply when those officials are enforcing these laws,” the local governments argue in their brief. “If laws such as SB 1070 are allowed to take effect, immigrants—whether they are naturalized citizens, lawful permanent residents, visa holders, or undocumented individuals—will become deeply distrustful of local governments and law enforcement officials.”

The cities and counties filing the brief provide essential services to local residents, including maintaining safe communities through the funding, operation, and oversight of local law enforcement agencies. They argue that Arizona’s law “imposes vague and unworkable requirements” on local law enforcement officers, and that it essentially requires officers to engage in racial profiling and other unconstitutional conduct, which will subject local governments to significant potential liability and have long-term negative effects on the ability of local governments to protect the safety of their communities.

Santa Clara County, along with many of the other local governments, filed similar briefs in front of the federal judge who issued the original injunction in the case, and with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals when it considered Arizona’s appeal of the injunction. As Santa Clara County Counsel Miguel Márquez explained, local governments across the country were relieved when the injunction was issued, but must continue to speak out about their concerns regarding laws like SB 1070.

“By filing a brief as a friend of the court, we offer an important perspective on how local governments both inside and outside of Arizona are harmed by a law like SB 1070, which breeds fear and mistrust of government in communities across the country,” said Márquez. “The Arizona legislature’s decision to make up its own immigration laws because it doesn’t like the federal government’s approach is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution. The lower courts’ decisions protect the ability of the federal government to enforce federal law, allowing local governments focus on protecting public safety.”

Lawyers for Arizona and the federal government will argue the case in front the Supreme Court on April 25th.
Copies of the brief are available upon request.

Amicus Brief

Media Contact: Gwendolyn Mitchell/Laurel Anderson, Office of Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119; Miguel Márquez, County Counsel (408) 299-5902.
Posted: March 23, 2012