Supreme Inhumanity? – Arizona Immigration Decision

BY CHRIS KERRJune 26, 2012

Earlier this week the Supreme Court announced their decision on the constitutionality of Arizona’s immigration law (SB 1070).   The court took a clear stand that constitutional authority to regulate immigration is a federal matter but fell short when it comes to the most inhumane element of the law.  By upholding the right of Arizona law enforcement to require any individual detained to produce immigration documents the court has perpetuated the sense of fear and mistrust that many Latino citizens already experience.

The U.S. Jesuit Conference, Jesuit Refugee Service USA, and the Kino Border Initiative have offered a public statement on the court’s action:


U.S. Supreme Court’s Decision Reaffirms the Need for Humane and Comprehensive Immigration Reform

The U.S. Jesuit Conference, the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and the Kino Border Initiative welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down three key provisions of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, S.B.1070.  In doing so, the Court correctly recognized the federal government’s constitutional authority to regulate immigration.

We are disappointed however that the decision left standing a final provision of the Arizona law, requiring Arizona law enforcement officers to stop and detain without warrant individuals on the sole basis of “reasonable suspicion” of irregular status.  We fear this provision places Arizona law enforcement officers at odds with the communities they seek to protect. This decision not only affects all Hispanics in the state of Arizona, but anyone deemed “foreign looking” is subject to detention and interrogation by law enforcement officers of the state. Such laws endanger all residents of Arizona by creating a fear and mistrust of law enforcement and drive immigrant communities further into the shadows by discouraging them from contacting the police when they are victims of crimes.

The Supreme Court’s decision on this provision of the Arizona law acknowledges the potential for future legal challenges, and we are hopeful that the provision will be overturned once the problems associated with it are further documented.

Through the Kino Border Initiative (a cooperative endeavor between six religious organizations, including JRS/USA and two provinces of the Society of Jesus, operating in the twin cities of Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico) we have borne daily witness to the harsh realities of the current broken immigration system. The Jesuit Conference, JRS/USA, and the Kino Border Initiative have long been committed to a humane and comprehensive approach to immigration reform.  In this spirit, we welcome the words of Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration, who has said, in response to the Supreme Court’s decision, “The U.S. Catholic bishops across the nation will urge their state governments to not pursue laws such as in Arizona, but rather to pursue humane reform on the federal level. Humane enforcement of our nation’s laws are part of any solution, but enforcement by itself, unjustly administered, only leads to abuses and family breakdown.”

Christopher Kerr

Chris joined the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) as executive director in 2011. He has over fifteen years of experience in social justice advocacy and leadership in Catholic education and ministry. Prior to ISN he served in multiple roles at John Carroll University, including coordinating international immersion experience and social justice education programming as an inaugural co-director of John Carroll’s Arrupe Scholars Program for Social Action. Prior to his time at John Carroll he served as a teacher and administrator at the elementary and secondary levels in Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Chris speaks regularly at campuses and parishes about social justice education and advocacy, Jesuit mission, and a broad range of social justice issues. He currently serves on the board of directors for Christians for Peace in El Salvador (CRISPAZ). Chris earned a B.A. and M.A. from John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. He and his family reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

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