WASHINGTON — A Yuma specialty crop grower says he hopes the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling Monday that struck down parts of a controversial Arizona law shines a light on the need for visa reform.
The U.S. government challenged the 2010 Arizona anti-immigration law, which has spread like wildfire in other states, saying that the law goes too far and usurps the federal government's authority over immigration issues.
While court-watchers were waiting for a decision on President Obama's health care reform law, which is expected June 28, the justices handed down a 75-page ruling on the controversial Arizona law.
By an 8-0 vote, the Supreme Court upheld one component of the controversial Arizona law that allows police officers to check a person's immigration status during stops.
But the justices voted to strike down other key sections of the law — though the decision was not unanimous — that would ban illegal immigrants from soliciting work in public places, require immigrations to carry papers at all times and allow the police to arrest aliens without warrants when the police believe the offense would make an immigrant deportable.
"Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law," Justice Kennedy wrote in the court's June 25 decision.
President Obama praised the court decision and called on Congress to pass a comprehensive fix to immigration policy.
"I agree with the court that individuals cannot be detained solely to verify their immigration status," he said. "At the same time, I remain concerned about the practical impact of the remaining provision of the Arizona law that requires local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of anyone they even suspect to be here illegally.
"What this decision makes unmistakably clear is that Congress must act on comprehensive immigration reform," President Obama added. "A patchwork of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system — it's part of the problem."
The United Fresh Produce Association issued a statement June 26, saying, "The Supreme Court's ruling on Arizona's immigration law (SB 1070) would likely lead to even greater labor force instability for produce industry employers in Arizona and other states that have similar immigration laws. This labor force instability could impact farm employers across the country because of the migratory nature of labor in the produce industry.
"The Supreme Court's decision underscores the immediate need for a comprehensive and practical guest worker program for agriculture to enable produce industry employers to remain viable and competitive," the statement continued. "United Fresh will continue to work with Congress on this vital priority for the produce industry."
Tim Dunn, chief executive officer of Tim Dunn Farms Inc. and Dunn Grain Co. Inc., said that Arizona businesses have been grappling with a "big exodus of labor" and that his company is "barely skating by" in finding workers thanks to the downturn in the economy.
The Arizona legal battle has been a "big distraction," he said, suggesting it makes no difference whether the state or federal government is asking for papers without a better system in place.
"In Yuma, there are immigration officials at every corner," he said. "The atmosphere won't change here."
Mr. Dunn called on Congress to act on the issue.
Western Growers Association agreed.
"This decision by the court, invalidating much of a state immigration measure along with the President's recent announcement on children brought to the United States illegally, demonstrates again that Congress must act to address these issues in a long-term and unified manner," said Tom Nassif, Western Growers president and CEO. "Voters would support sensible and incremental reforms that begin to address the broken system employers currently face, addressing the needs of agriculture is the place to begin."