PORTLAND — The U.S. Supreme Court’s split decision on Arizona’s controversial immigration law is not expected to have major implications in Maine, where racial profiling is already prohibited and illegal immigration has been less of a political issue than in other states, observers said Monday.

In a long-awaited decision, the nation’s highest court struck down several key components of Arizona’s law but let stand the most divisive provision: requiring police officers to check the immigration status of people they stop or detain if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the country illegally.

While disappointed that the “show me your papers” provision survived, immigration advocates and civil rights groups in Maine predicted that the ruling will have limited effects in Maine. That’s because a proposal for similar laws here died in a legislative committee last year.

“I haven’t heard that there was any intent to bring this back,” said Alysia Melnick, public policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine.

Modeled after Arizona’s law, the Maine bill would have required government officials to demand proof of citizenship or other documentation for people suspected of being in the country illegally. The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Kathleen Chase, R-Wells, withdrew it after advocacy, civic and business groups began gearing up to fight it.

Marc Mutty, director of public policy for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, which opposed the bill, said it is difficult to predict whether the issue could come back next year until after this November’s legislative elections.


“But it was not well received at all (last time), so I don’t anticipate it coming back,” Mutty said Monday.

Chase could not be reached for comment.

The Maine Chiefs of Police Association adopted a policy last year prohibiting racial profiling, also known as biased-based profiling. Next year, every law enforcement officer in Maine will be required to complete a two-hour training course on cultural diversity and biased-based policing.

The policies adopted by the police chiefs had been adopted earlier by the Maine Criminal Justice Academy Board of Trustees, shaped by an advisory committee that studied the issue.

John Rogers, director of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, served on the committee. He declined to comment on the specifics of the Arizona law but said committee members were clear on profiling.

“Every member of that committee is adamant that law enforcement should be treating people equally and that they should not be biased in any way,” Rogers said.


Members of Maine’s congressional delegation also weighed in on the ruling.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, said in a prepared statement that the Supreme Court was correct to nullify most of Arizona’s law but she was disappointed that the “show me your papers” section was allowed to stand.

“No one in this country should ever be stopped by the police just because of the way they look,” Pingree said. “That’s not what our country is about and that kind of racial profiling doesn’t belong on the books here in America.”

Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority share owner of the Kennebec Journal, the Morning Sentinel, and The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe said she was reviewing the ruling but used the occasion to call for wider immigration reform that creates national standards and “ensures that we secure our nation’s porous borders.”

“I recall in 1986 when the House of Representatives last tackled this issue, the commitment was that the problem of illegal immigration would be addressed once and for all,” Snowe said in a prepared statement. “Yet, here we are today in the unacceptable situation where 12 million people are in the United States illegally, and states have felt compelled to take action given the vacuum of leadership from Washington. Now, Congress must demonstrate it has the capacity to make certain that our borders are secure and that incentives for illegal immigration are eliminated.”

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins issued a statement saying, “Far too many communities are struggling with the economic demands of providing services to both citizens and illegal immigrants, while at the same time border security enforcement officials face daunting challenges as they try to ensure that our borders are as safe as possible to secure our homeland.

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling reinforces my belief that our current immigration and border security systems need reform,” she said.

A spokesman for Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, said the congressman was not releasing a statement on the issue.

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