Education International
Education International

US Supreme Court issues ruling on Arizona’s anti-immigrant law

published 27 June 2012 updated 3 July 2012

Education unions in the United States (US) have cautiously welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision on 25 June to block elements of Arizona’s anti-immigration law.

Three parts of the Arizona immigration law S.B. 1070 have now been cancelled: applying state crimes and penalties for not carrying federally-issued registration documents; making it unlawful for an immigrant to work in Arizona; and permitting a warrantless arrest if the officer believes there’s any public offence, making the person arrested removable from the US.

The US Supreme Court decided that three of the four provisions currently blocked by the courts are pre-empted by federal law.

However, the Court did not invalidate the so-called ‘show me your papers’ provision. This allows authorities to stop a person and demand proof of immigration status on the basis of a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that he or she is not authorised to be in the country.

The Court reinstated the ‘show me your papers’ provision for the time being, but left open the possibility that the provision could still be found unconstitutional on pre-emption or other grounds in the future.

Mixed feelings and grave concerns

EI’s affiliates in United States, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), had both condemned the Arizona immigration law S.B. 1070 when it was passed in 2010.

Today the civil rights community, including education unions, believe the measure would still result in racial profiling and would allow police to question anyone on the mere suspicion of being an illegal immigrant.

“The Supreme Court decision invalidating most of Arizona’s racial profiling and anti-immigrant law teaches our children the right lessons about democracy, inclusion, and non-discrimination,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.

AFT President Randi Weingarten stated: “Upholding the ‘show me your papers’ provision is "deeply troubling," but "the decision to invalidate most of SB 1070 constitutes a victory for some of our most fundamental beliefs as a nation."

No place for prejudice, especially in our public schools

However, Van Roekel went on to say, “NEA remains concerned that the practical implication of the ‘show me your papers’ provision in the Arizona law will deter immigrants from fully participating in all aspects of our society”.

“As educators, we are concerned about a potential slippery slope from policies such as Arizona’s law. These discriminatory laws interfere with the culture of trust necessary for educators to build and sustain strong home-school connections, which we know are essential to students’ academic success. "

"Regardless of what the future holds, NEA will continue working with our state affiliates and our administrative colleagues to fight to preserve these important relationships so that all children can get a great, high-quality public education”, he concluded.

Migrants’ rights to achieve decent work

David Edwards, EI Deputy General Secretary, stressed that “there’s still hard work to be done to achieve full human rights protection and fundamental freedom for all migrants regardless of their migration status”.

Edwards also recognises the key role played by member organisations in facilitating the integration of migrants into host societies.

As underlined in its 2007 Resolution on International Migration, EI believes the migration phenomenon in a globalised world must be approached “with a clear policy of respect for the human, labour and trade union rights of persons who emigrate, in line with core international instruments of human and labour rights.”

EI calls on Governments to ratify and fully implement the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and the ILO Conventions 97 (Migration for Employment Convention) and 143 (Migrant Workers Convention).

To read NEA’s message please click here

To read EI resolutions on Migration please go here:

Resolution on Teacher Migration and Mobility (2011)

Resolution on International Migration (2007)

Additional links:

The Commonwealth Teachers’ Group NEWSLETTER – Issue 4 July 2011

Commonwealth Teacher Recruitment Protocol

International portal for information on the human rights of migrants