This article is over 11 years old


Houston Reacts To Supreme Court Ruling On Immigration

The Supreme Court's split decision on Arizona's immigration law has also left many people in Houston feeling ambivalent about what happened. Lawyers, politicians and advocates give their take on what the ruling will mean in real life.



To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code:

<iframe src="" style="height: 115px; width: 100%;"></iframe>

The Supreme Court struck down three of the four major provisions in the law, but did uphold the part of the law that allows police to check immigration status.

Still, legal scholars here praised the ruling as basically fair:

“The gist of this decision is very positive in terms of protecting immigrant rights.”

Geoffrey Hoffman specializes in immigration law at the University of Houston Law Center.

Hoffman says the Court affirmed that the federal government, not the states, has authority over immigration policy.

And while police in Arizona can still check immigration status, Arizona can’t make it a crime for an illegal immigrant to look for work or to move around without the right identification.

“The Supreme Court is now making it a statement that the immigrants in our society, in our country are on the whole, on balance, a benefit, they’re beneficial to our country.”

Hoffman says the Court’s opinion recognizes the historical importance of immigrants in the nation’s past, and future.

“A lot of times people may be undocumented at certain points in their lives but they may be able to find legitimate and lawful ways to naturalize. And those people can become the leaders, the doctors, the engineers, the lawyers, the people who are the real future of our country.” 

But others reacted more cautiously, saying the part of the law that remains in effect could lead to racial profiling.

Carol Alvarado is a state representative from Houston’s East End.

“Anybody that looks ethnic that may be in a certain neighborhood or speaks with a certain accent, could be subject to that, any of us could.”

But right now there is no state law in Texas that dictates what police have to ask – or not ask – about the legal status of people they pull over.

Still, the potential for Texas or other states to copy this part of the law remains.     

Baldomero Garza is the southwest leader for the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC.

Garza says everyone will be watching to see how Arizona actually enforces this part of the law, and how immigrants respond:

“The police are now able to ask you about immigration status in Arizona. And we focus on how do we protect people from being racially profiled or discriminated against. And basically our (strategy) is: when the official starts going into the direction of immigration issues, that you have a right to say basically that your lawyer has instructed you not to answer questions in terms of immigration issues.”

But attorneys say even that part of the law could be thrown out later, if lower courts determine racial profiling is being used to enforce it.