Last year, Arizona passed its now-notorious anti-immigration bill SB 1070. Arguing that the federal government has not met its responsibility to enforce immigration law, the state strove to address the immigration “problem” in the state through the harshest measures seen in the country at that time. The federal district court decided in the initial lawsuit against the law to prevent it from going into effect after it was passed; the appellate court upheld that decision regarding key provisions. As a result, the state’s almost one-third Latino population—and approximately 15% foreign-born population (a rough approximation of the immigrant population)—were granted some respite from the weight of some of the most egregious provisions, including the “papers please”/“reasonable suspicion” of being an immigrant provision. Not satisfied with this result, SB 1070 supporters have fought to have the case heard by the Supreme Court. Just as the legislation’s opponents gained with the recall of anti-immigrant governor and SB 1070-proponent Russell Pearce a few months ago, the law’s supporters won on December 12, 2011 when the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
Of course, the Court’s decision to hear the case does not take place in a vacuum, and here are three main reasons that Latinas may want to watch the Court closely in the months to come.
The first reason is because many Latinas care about immigration. The implications of the Court’s decision on the constitutionality of SB 1070 may resonate far beyond the borders of Arizona. In fact, we know precisely some of the jurisdictions that will be tuned in to hear what the Court has to say: Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Utah, and Indiana—the states on the cutting edge of anti-immigrant legislation—may all have a stake in what the Court says because their laws could ultimately be affected by the decision. Latinos who haven’t yet fled those states may start packing their bags, and non-immigrants may need to start hunkering down for the economic contraction that will occur when hard-working—and money-spending—immigrant families decide they’ve had enough and leave.
The second reason that Latinas may want to start watching the Court has to do with their health. Immigration laws, including SB 1070, have clear effects on Latinas’ health as the laws may make women increasingly unwilling or unable to seek public benefits, healthcare, or even utilities. What’s more, though, is that the Court will also be deciding this term on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—the landmark legislation that would help many un- or underinsured Latinas obtain the health insurance they need, with critical coverage such as co-pay-free contraception.
The final reason that Latinas may be especially intrigued by what the Court has to say is because of the November 2012 elephant in the room. Latinos are not single-issue activists or voters, but immigration and health are important issues to many Latinos. Seeing if Latinos continue to be treated as second-class—or if they are finally treated as full and equal citizens—may inspire Latino communities to show their power in protest—or hopefully, in support—of the Court’s decision.
As we approach the end of 2011, it is clear that 2012 is shaping up to be another exciting year, hopefully with more positive outcomes for Latinos than recent years. With the Supreme Court to decide on the constitutionality of SB 1070, it’s clear the Supreme Court will demand Latinas’ attention in the months to come.