Immigrants’ rights advocates have long argued that those who back strict immigration laws did so at least partially due to racism. Now they’ll have a chance to test that theory out, as U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton has granted opponents of Arizona’s strict immigration law, known as SB 1070, access to emails between state lawmakers and proponents of the legislation.
The law’s opponents requested access to the emails because they believe SB 1070, and the people involved in passing it, violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. There is a belief that the law was deliberately intended to discriminate against Latinos and other minorities.
When it was passed in 2010, SB 1070 was the harshest anti-immigration measure in the country, and many other states used it as a model for their own legislation. However, the United States Supreme Court struck down many of the law’s provisions, but did leave intact one of the most controversial – Arizona law enforcement officials can be compelled to check the immigration status of someone they stop lawfully if they suspect they are in the country illegally.
Debate over email access
SB 1070’s supporters were up in arms over the judge’s decision to grant opponents of the law access to the emails. They claim it is a violation of their First Amendment rights. Judge Bolton, however, saw it in almost opposite terms.
In her Dec. 11 ruling, Bolton wrote that there is nothing in the “law that protects from public view communications with public officials in their official capacity about a matter of public concern. Indeed, Arizona law makes all such communications available to the public under its freedom of information law.”
The law’s opponents will now sort through the emails looking for anything explicitly derogatory that was written about Latinos, or any other sign that the law was motivated by discrimination. If they find any such evidence, it would give them grounds to repeal SB 1070.