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Supreme Court leaves ‘show your papers’ issue unresolved

Advocates clashed Monday over whether a new U.S. Supreme Court decision gives a victory to those who favor allowing police to ask for documentation from suspected illegal immigrants without probable cause.

The chair of the Prince William County board of supervisors praised the high court’s opinion. “I think they completely reaffirmed what Prince William County has been doing since 2007,” said Corey Stewart, referring to the county’s ordinance that reportedly served as a model for the Arizona law at issue.

An ACLU leader said Stewart “obviously did not read the decision.” Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, said the Supreme Court did not uphold the “show me your papers” provision of the Arizona law, but said instead that it could be subject to challenge as it is applied.

Gastañaga noted the court had overturned three of four provisions of the Arizona law, leaving only the one controversial “section 2(B)” provision unresolved. “That will get thrown out, too, if they don’t apply it right,” Gastañaga said.

Critics contend the provision allows police to use racial profiling to demand documentation from suspected illegal immigrants.

“The court essentially stopped short of striking down provision 2(B), and for now that provision remains intact,” said Gregory Chen, director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association. He emphasized it was a narrow ruling.

Chen said the important thing about the ruling in Arizona v. U.S. is that it affirms the primacy of the federal immigration laws. He said the decision gives no cause for celebration to advocates of stricter state immigration enforcement.

By Peter Vieth

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