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South Asians fear racial profiling over US court ruling

Tuesday June 26, 2012 09:14:07 AM, Arun Kumar, IANS

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US apex court sides with Obama on immigration law

But it was a less than complete win as the court's 5-3 ruling also upheld the most controversial provision of the Republican-ruled state's law involving police checks on people's immigration status while enforcing other laws if "reasonable suspicion" exists that the person is in the US 

Washington: South Asian and other immigrant groups have joined the White House in warning that a US Supreme Court decision upholding a controversial provision of Arizona's immigration law could lead to racial profiling.

In a 5-3 decision hailed by both sides as a victory, the court Monday largely sided with President Barack Obama in striking down most of the tough state law, but upheld what has been dubbed "show me your papers" provision allowing police to check people's immigration status.

"The national government has significant power to regulate immigration," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion ruling the federal government had the power to block the Arizona law.

A "pleased" Obama called on the Congress to "act on comprehensive immigration reform" saying "a patchwork of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system - it's part of the problem."

He also expressed concern that immigration status checks allowed by the court ruling could lead to racial profiling by police saying: "No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like."

The National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO), a network of 42 community organizations led by South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), too feared the decision "will result in racial profiling by state and local law enforcement of individuals suspected of being undocumented."

"As an organization committed to upholding immigrant rights, SAALT remains deeply concerned that the court failed to strike down the papers please' aspects of the law," it said in a statement.

But Arizona's Republican Governor Jan Brewer called the court decision "a victory for the people of Arizona and for America" and asserted Arizona police had been trained to avoid racial profiling, "and they don't profile."

The Obama administration had challenged four major provisions of the Arizona law that never were enforced, pending the legal ruling, arguing immigration matters were strictly a federal function.

Provisions struck down included authorising police to arrest immigrants without warrant, making it a state crime for "unauthorized immigrants" to fail to carry identification papers and soliciting work or even indicating their willingness to do so with a "gesture or nod."

Similar laws passed by several other states are under challenge in lower courts in Georgia, Alabama, Utah, Indiana and South Carolina.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at







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