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City Bar Urges U.S. Congress to Advance Comprehensive Immigration Reform and Oppose Arizona’s SB 1070 and Similar State Laws

In a letter to leaders of the U.S. Congress, the New York City Bar Association urges action on federal legislation that would bring about comprehensive and effective immigration reform, and opposition to Arizona’s S.B. 1070 anti-immigration act and similar immigration laws under consideration by various state legislatures throughout the country.

The letter, signed by City Bar President Samuel W. Seymour, states, “Our Committees on Inter-American Affairs and on Immigration and Nationality Law have carefully studied SB 1070  and have concluded that it and similar State Immigration Laws impermissibly interfere with U.S. foreign relations and intrude upon Congress’s supreme authority to regulate immigration and international trade. SB 1070 and similar State Immigration Laws create an atmosphere of hostility and distrust between the people of the United States and Latin America, and create an environment for unlawful harassment and racial profiling of Latinos and other ethnic minorities regardless of their citizenship or immigration status.”

While the letter acknowledges that SB 1070 and similar state laws may be motivated by domestic concerns, it argues that the Constitution “places the power over foreign affairs, including immigration, solely within the authority of the federal government, and the Supreme Court has stricken state immigration laws where they encroach on Congress’s authority in the area of international relations.”

SB 1070 is also unconstitutional, the letter argues, “in that it impermissibly interferes with international trade and commerce, whose regulation rests within the authority of the federal government (U.S. Constitution, Art. I, Sec. 8, clause 3)…. One need look no further than Mexico’s advisory to its nationals that a negative political environment for migrant communities and for all Mexicans exists in Arizona.”

In addition to preempting Congress’s powers, “SB 1070 and other similar State Immigration Laws create an environment for racial profiling, harassment and discrimination of Latinos and other ethnic minorities in the United States by line law enforcement officials attempting to make immigration status decisions, under the pressure of law enforcement activities, unskilled and without federal authority,” the letter states. “Enforcement of these laws will increase the occurrence of violations of due process, equal protection and other civil rights when some officers make decisions based on stereotypes that associate race, ethnicity, national origin and native language with presumed unlawful presence, regardless of an individual’s actual citizenship or immigration status.”

The letter concludes, “The New York City Bar Association therefore strongly urges your respective Committees and Subcommittees to assert their exclusive jurisdiction, to craft and promote federal legislation that will bring about comprehensive and effective immigration reform and to forcefully oppose SB 1070 and the enactment of similar laws by other states.”

The letter may be read here.

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