CONTACT: Meredith Curtis, ACLU of Maryland, 410-889-8555;

BALTIMORE - The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland hailed today's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down three of four key provisions of the S.B. 1070, Arizona's anti-immigrant law.  Executive Director Susan Goering said that the decision "shows that the Maryland Legislature was wise not to have joined the bandwagon of other states that enacted copy-cat anti-immigrant legislation."

Maryland has already rejected Arizona's controversial approach because it harms citizens and non-citizens alike. The Arizona law, in effect, served as an open invitation for racial profiling - a technique Marylanders have rejected as not only demeaning and insulting, but also as an inaccurate and ineffective law enforcement tool that does not promote public safety.

"Maryland is not Arizona, and we will continue to forge our own path," Goering said. "We've seen the corrosive effects that laws like S.B. 1070 have on a community.  The court's decision will have limited impact in Maryland, because there is growing awareness of how laws like these undermine police work, public safety, and threaten our most basic American values."

The Court invalidated provisions in the law that made it a state crime to fail to carry immigration documents, that imposed state penalties on persons who work in the United States without federal authorization, and that would have permitted local law enforcement officers to arrest persons they suspected of being in the country illegally.  The Court said that all of those provisions interfered with federal control over immigration matters, and were therefore unconstitutional.

The Court said that it was too early to tell whether one of the most controversial parts of S.B. 1070, the so-called "show me your papers" provision, is similarly preempted by federal law, because it has not yet been interpreted by the state courts. It requires police to determine the immigration status of someone arrested or detained if they have a "reasonable suspicion" that person is not in the country legally.  But the Court substantially limited the effect of that provision by ensuring that even if law enforcement asks about immigration status, they cannot detain a person based solely on their perceived status, and cannot prolong a detention to determine a person's immigration status.

Moreover, the "show your papers" provision, and others, are the subject of a separate ACLU lawsuit that was not before the Court today, and the Court noted that the provision may be invalid on other grounds beyond the narrow preemption claim that the Court ruled on today.  The ACLU has, in fact, asserted that the provision cannot be enforced without violating the right to equal protection and without violating the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizure, because there is no way to lawfully tell, based on appearance or accent, whether one is in the country legally or illegally.

"Show me your papers laws" exact a heavy financial toll.  Alabama's economy may have suffered as hit of as much as $6.5 billion as a result of its law, according to a University of Alabama study. Arizona saw a drop in sales tax revenue and a jump in the unemployment rate when S.B. 1070 first became law in 2010. Farmers have seen their crops rot and are planting less because the workers they have relied on for decades have fled in fear.

Anti-immigrant laws also drain the resources of county sheriffs and local police departments who do not want the burden of serving as immigration agents while also trying to protect their communities.   Immigration checks poison efforts to foster trust and cooperation within all communities. "Do we want to give our police officers the authority to demand ‘papers' merely because of the way a person looks or talks?," asked Goering.  "We cannot allow politicians to rob of us of our most basic rights, without making us any safer."

For an infographic about today's decision and more information, go to:


Know Your Rights Videos

To watch a two-minute public service announcement about your rights in light of today's Supreme Court decision on Arizona's anti-immigrant law, SB 1070:

English video:

Spanish video: