The Torch is back with Peter Ashman, an ACLU of Nevada board member and an immigration attorney in Las Vegas, giving us an interesting look at the recent blow dealt to Arizona's anti-illegal immigration bill.
Last July, just before Arizona's anti-illegal immigration bill, S.B. 1070, was to go in effect, the United States stepped in and successfully obtained an injunction from a federal judge in Phoenix. Governor Brewer, the controversial proponent of the measure filed an appeal of the decision. On April 11th, 2011, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Arizona District Court holding that S.B. 1070 is preempted by federal law. As most rational thinking people predicted, Arizona's efforts to create its own separate state policy on immigration is not consistent with the federal government's role in regulating the national borders and conducting its own foreign policy with Mexico.
As the court correctly recognized, Arizona’s misguided attempt to drive immigrants from the state interferes with the federal government’s exclusive authority to enforce immigration law, has negatively impacted U.S. foreign relations, and reflects the dangers of allowing states to enact a patchwork of conflicting regulations. The Ninth Circuit also rightly rejected Arizona’s claim that state police have “inherent authority” to enforce federal immigration laws and held that Congress intended state officers to “aid in immigration enforcement only under the close supervision of the Attorney General.”
SB 1070 would have required all Arizona law enforcement personnel to verify the status of anyone they come in contact with, or even suspect of being an undocumented immigrant. It would have required all people to carry proof of their immigration statuses—including U.S. citizens, and made it illegal to seek employment in public places. Proponents argued that the law was necessary to deal with the federal government's abject failure to create and enforce reasonable laws on immigration and deal with Arizona's undocumented population and their purported burden on Arizona's schools, hospitals, roads, and generous social benefits.
Utah has recently passed similar legislation, but has taken an additional (and somewhat bizarre) step of providing papers that would purport to let undocumented aliens work legally in Utah, as long as the federal government agrees to allow Utah the power regulate the undocumented within its borders. Georgia's legislature passed a similar law the day after the 9th Circuit decision in U.S. v. Arizona. Florida and many other states are considering similar anti-immigration laws. But Texas, Colorado, Kentucky, Wyoming, New Hampshire, and Nebraska have rejected Arizona-style bills this year, according to the National Immigration Forum.
Most observers believe this matter will eventually wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court, unless Congress acts first to deal with this long-overdue problem. However, with the 2012 elections already beginning to heat up, and a Congress seemingly gridlocked on budgetary issues, this observer sees no solution on the horizon and expects that while the 9th Circuit decision is good news to those that object to racial profiling, harassment, and vilification of millions of hard working men, women, and children, we are nowhere near the end of the debate over illegal immigration.
When most people think about the history of Nevada, they think about mobsters, casinos and showgirls. Most people don’t realize that Nevada has an interesting and impressive African American history. We might be familiar with some people who helped advance civil rights in Nevada, like Mable Hoggard, H.P. Fitzgerald, Ruby Duncan and Charles West. Before these leaders, however, there were others who started the fight for civil rights, including Dr. W.H.C. Stephenson, the first African American doctor on record in Nevada.
African Americans came to Nevada before it officially became a state. Like thousands of others, they were attempting to make it rich off the famous Comstock Lode in Virginia City, Nevada.
Dr. W.H. C. Stephenson was among those who saw great opportunities in Nevada. Stephenson was born around 1820 or 1825 in Washington, D.C. Although the exact date of his arrival in Nevada is unknown, he was listed in the city directory in 1863. Dr. Stephenson set up a medical practice in Virginia City to serve the African American community, and may have also had several white patients as well. He was one of five of the most affluent African Americans in Nevada at the time, with a net worth of over $2,500.
Due to his prominent status, he naturally became a leader for the African American community, which was still fewer than 100 people in the entire state. In 1865 Stephenson was elected chairman of the Nevada Executive Committee, an organization whose mission was "to take steps to petition the next Legislature for the Right of Suffrage and equal rights before the Law to all the Colored Citizens of the State of Nevada.” (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1998). He registered to vote in Virginia City in 1870, the year the 15th Amendment was ratified, which prohibits denying a citizen the right to vote based on their "race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
Dr. Stephenson advocated for the rights of African Americans to fully participate as citizens through petitions that addressed access to public education and the ability to testify in a trial.
Some time in the late 1870’s it was said that Dr. Stephenson almost killed a man by prescribing the wrong medication. After this, his name does not appear on any records in Nevada, and he was never seen. His wife continued to reside in Nevada and worked as a hairdresser until at least 1875.
Dr. Stephenson is one of many African Americans who helped shine the light on the great injustices that were occurring long ago in our state. To these original activists who helped pave the road for civil rights, we say thank you. We will continue to make sure their fights and struggles were not in vain.
Hey Readers! We've been busy gearing up for the Nevada Legislature, which starts today. In honor of the kickoff, Spring Semester Legislative Policy Intern Lea Moser gives us her reason for supporting (and working with) the ACLU:
There is a saying that we were all told growing up, one that seems like such a simple concept but hard to actually follow through with. The saying was coined by Albert Einstein, possibly the most well known physicist of the 20th century, he said, "What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right." The ACLU exemplifies this saying, standing up for liberty and protecting the Bill of Rights even when it is not the popular thing to do.
My first encounter with anything ACLU was in high school when I learned that the organization had spent time fighting for the rights of Nazis to publicly march through a heavily Jewish area in Skokie, Ill. As a teenager I was horrified, creating in my mind the idea that the ACLU was a horrible organization that advocated for murderers and racists. Severely confused, I spent much time trying to figure out how such a group could morally support something that caused many people emotional pain.
By the end of high school I became more aware and convinced that unless the rights of all are protected and fought for, then the rights of all Americans would be meaningless, left to the whim of popular sentiments and not to the protection and application of the laws that are meant to be used by each unique individual of this country.
Whether or not an issue the ACLU is defending or supporting is considered moral by all segments of society, the ACLU stands by its belief in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in protecting freedom, liberty and privacy. As we enter into a new decade, continually adjusting with the rise and use of technology, it becomes more apparent that free speech and other protections are becoming more easily able to infringe upon than they once were. I feel proud to be able to spend an entire semester with the ACLU and can feel satisfied in helping the organization preserve the protective rights our country was founded upon.
After a hiatus, the Torch is back! Look for more regular postings in the coming weeks. Today's update is from our new Prisoner Rights Fellow, Rebecca Paddock:
Last week, for the first time, the U.S. faced close scrutiny of its human rights record in a formal U.N. process known as the Universal Periodic Review. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was established by the UN General Assembly in 2006 as a process through which the human rights records of the United Nations’ 192 Member States could be reviewed and assessed. This review, conducted through the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), is based upon human rights obligations and commitments expressed in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and human rights instruments to which the State is party.
In April, the ACLU submitted a 10-page report focusing on access to justice and the right to effective remedy. The information provided by the ACLU and other members of civil society will be used by the U.N. Human Rights Council to review the U.S.’ report to the Council. This is a historic moment for the United States and is an important step towards protecting and promoting human rights at home. For more information on the UPR proceedings visit http://www.ushrnetwork.org/campaign_upr
You've probably heard by now about a Florida pastor's plans to make September 11, 2010 "International Burn the Quran Day"--a plan that has sparked an outcry from community leaders across the country who see the event as intolerant and dangerous.
But, as you know by now, faithful readers, we cannot impose silence on speech, even if it is offensive to our personal values. Click here for an excellent piece from the ACLU of Florida's director, Howard Simon, laying out the case for First Amendment protection, no matter the content.