Groups Debate Laws Against Harboring, Transporting Undocumented Immigrants

March 11, 2014

Attorneys for immigrant rights groups asked the United States Supreme Court on Monday to block a last-ditch attempt by the state to start prosecuting people for harboring and transporting those who are not in the country legally.

Under Arizona’s immigration law, SB 1070, it’s illegal to drive or house someone who is in the country illegally. The federal courts have ruled that provision of the law is preempted by federal laws. But Gov. Jan Brewer’s attorney is asking the Supreme Court to allow the state to have its own version of the law.

Attorney Karen Tumlin of the National Immigration Law Center says that’s wrong.

“Here with the harboring and transporting provision, it's Arizona's attempt to criminalize activity that's very similar to what's criminalized federally and even to go beyond it,” Tumlin said.

She says the measure would allow the Arizona courts to decide who is here legally, and its response to the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows certain young people who are in the U.S. illegally to stay here, shows that wouldn’t work.

Brewer has said those in the DACA program are "unlawfully present aliens," a category she uses to deny them state driver’s licenses. Tumlin says that could mean a legal U.S. resident who drives an illegal sibling to different locations could be charged with transporting in Arizona.

The high court has not yet set a date to decide whether it will hear the case.