Explosive Immigration Issue to Hit Supreme Court

PHOTO: Arizona resident Jim Shee took this photo after an incident with the Arizona police in which he felt he was a victim of discrimination.

Jim Shee, a U.S. citizen of Spanish and Chinese ancestry, says he began to understand the impact of Arizona's strict immigration law called S.B.1070 when he was stopped by Arizona police twice in one month.

"I was stopped for the color of my skin. I look like a minority, whatever a minority is supposed to look like," he says.

The stops occurred less than a month after the law was signed in 2010. The first happened while he was sitting in his parked car reading a text message. The policeman told him he "looked suspicious," asked for his papers, and then let him go. The second stop was 10 days later.

WHAT TO KNOW
  • The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Ariz. immigration law, on which Jim Shee is a plaintiff.

"The officer comes up to my window and says 'can I see your papers?' I handed my driver's license and insurance card.," he said.

When the officer told him he was free to go, Shee asked why he had been pulled over.

"Your windows are too dark, you need to change the tint on your windows, " the officer responded, according to Shee.

Shee, 72, has been stopped for the occasional ticket over the course of his life.

"I've never been stopped for no reason, " he told ABC News. "And before the officers had always specified that they wanted my driver's license or insurance, not simply 'papers'. I felt very degraded and very discriminated against. The officer saw a brown person."

S.B. 1070 was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer, a fierce defender of states' rights. Shee is a named plaintiff in a pending suit in the U.S District Court in Arizona brought by a coalition of civil rights groups who say the law leads to racial profiling.

In a separate suit, the Obama administration is also challenging the Arizona law, and won a victory in the lower courts to prevent four of the most controversial provisions from going into effect. One of the provisions includes the "show me your papers" section, which requires local law enforcement officers to ask someone they stop for their immigration papers if the officer has a "reasonable suspicion" the individual is in the country illegally.

Another provision criminalizes unauthorized work, while a third makes it a state crime to fail to carry immigrations papers at all times. The fourth blocked provision allows warrantless arrests when an officer has probable cause to believe an individual has committed an office that would result in a person's deportation.

Governor Brewer was furious that the lower court sided with the Obama administration, and she asked the Supreme Court to step in and review the case. The court has agreed to hear the case Wednesday.

At issue before the justices is whether existing federal immigration law trumps the Arizona law. Only eight justices will be present, because Justice Elena Kagan recused herself, presumably because she dealt with it in her previous job as Solicitor General for the Obama administration.

Brewer has hired Paul Clement, one of the finest appellate lawyers in the country, to argue on behalf of the law . She says the law was passed in part because states are frustrated with the failure on the part of the federal government to control illegal immigration. An example of the problem, Brewer says, extends far from a porous border, 80 miles inland where the federal government placed signs warning the public about smuggling areas.

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