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Arizona’s New Immigration Law

by California Legal Defenders on May 3rd, 2010

We at the VIB law firm believe there are serious questions about the Constitutionality of Arizona’s new immigration law.

As an American citizen you’re protected by the Fourth Amendment that prevents a police officer from demanding to see your identification without good reason to believe you have done something illegal. And looking or sounding a certain way does not constitute a good reason.

SB 1070 changes this by creating a new reason for law enforcement to stop persons.  It states that an officer may stop someone based solely on a “Reasonable Suspicion of being an Illegal Immigrant”.  In our opinion this is where the problem with this law lies.

Currently an officer might stop you for DUI based on the driver weaving, driving too fast, etc. But what does an “illegal immigrant” look like such that they should be stopped and questioned? Before you answer, remember that it is Unconstitutional to use race to answer this question (it’s a protected class). So what basis will an officer use to stop a citizen of this Republic and ask the question “show me your papers”?

When the Governor was asked what was “reasonable suspicion” she said “I don’t know”. Supporters of the law have admitted they have no idea what criteria officers will be using to stop random people. In our opinion that’s because there isn’t an answer that ultimately doesn’t involve the person being a certain color, having a certain accent or dressing a certain way.

In our opinion the new law ultimately leads to racial profiling. The concerns about racial profiling come directly from this “reasonable suspicion” clause.  Do the law makers of Arizona honestly believe that if an officer pulls over someone who is white that they will be asked to prove their right to be in the US? On the other hand, someone who is stopped and fits a police officer’s idea of what an illegal immigrant looks/speaks/acts like will be required to provide documentation in that same situation.

Put another way, we think it likely that a group of white college kids piled into a van will be treated much differently by police than a group of Hispanic adults piled into that same van under this new law.

Remember that the law also provides that if unable to provide  documentation of citizenship, they will be arrested… even if they are really a citizen but just cannot prove it on the spot. Thus the concern is that people’s civil liberties will be violated, as people of different skin colors are denied equal protection under the law.

This does not mean that the law WILL (or will always) be enforced in such a way, but simply that it makes it possible—easier—for such abuses to occur. There are many people who want comprehensive immigration reform. But it is never acceptable to sacrifice civil liberties to do so. There are far better ways to address the problem of illegal immigration without violating people’s rights. In our opinion, this is an easy and unjust answer to America’s need for immigration reform that infringes on our Constitutional rights.

From → Immigration

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