ACLU & civil rights groups challenge Arizona’s ‘show your papers’ immigration law

The American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of civil rights groups have mounted a legal challenge to nullify the “show your papers” provision of Arizona’s immigration law weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the bulk of SB 1070.

Read more: Supreme Court invalidates bulk of Arizona’s immigration law

The ACLU, along with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), submitted a motion for preliminary injunction this week to block the implementation of Section 2(b) of SB 1070.

“Our Constitution protects us from state laws that intend to discriminate based on the color of a person’s skin or her or his nationality,” said Karen Tumlin, managing attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. “The district court should block this hateful provision that threatens countless Arizonans’ basic right to live free from fear of harassment or prolonged detention.”

Under Section 2(b), Arizona police officers are required to conduct immigration checks on anyone they stop, detain, or arrest if “reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien and is unlawfully present in the United States.” An individual cannot be released from police custody until his or her immigration status has been verified with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Read more: Analysis: Supreme Court declines to overturn Arizona’s mandatory immigration verification

Section 2(b) was allowed to stand after the Supreme Court determined that the Justice Department did not present enough evidence to show that its enforcement would lead to racial profiling or extended detentions.

However, the high court’s ruling explicitly left open the possibility of future legal challenges to Section 2(b) if its implementation does result in racial discrimination, harassment of people based solely on race, color, or national origin, or prolonged detention or arrest.

The coalition’s lawsuit will bring additional claims and evidence that were not presented in the Justice Department’s challenge heard by the Supreme Court.

The complaint argued that Section 2(b) should not be allowed to take effect because it would violate the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches or arrests, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, who prohibits the government from enacting laws that discriminate against certain groups of people.

“The requested injunction would protect the individual Plaintiffs…from irreparable harm, including the harms of unlawful detention and arrest under Section 2(b)…and the stigma imposed by the racial and national origin discrimination imposed by Section 2(b),” according to the lawsuit.

Fourth Amendment

The lawsuit noted that Arizona’s newly published training materials on SB 1070 do not prohibit law enforcement officials from using Section 2(b) to “extend detentions solely for immigration purposes” nor does it set any time limit on how long someone can be detained in police custody pending the status verifications.

“[U]nder Section 2(b) if we cannot get immediate confirmation from federal officials of the immigration status of these suspects, we will have to extend their detentions in the field until we get a status determination from federal officials, or book them into jail to await these results,” stated Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor.Either situation will result in extended detention of thousands of individuals—even if it is for brief periods of time.”

The Supreme Court has already acknowledged that “detaining individuals solely to verify their immigration status would raise constitutional concerns” because doing so would violate the Fourth Amendment, which requires probable cause to justify any arrest.

To put it another way, a police officer will need to demonstrate there is probable cause to believe that a person has committed a crime before making an arrest. But despite the popular use of the label “illegal alien”, the Supreme Court has recognized that it is not technically a crime for a “removable alien” to remain in the United States and that a warrant is required to arrest someone who is ordered to be deported. Therefore, it would violate the Fourth Amendment for a police officer to detain or arrest someone simply because the officer suspects the person doesn’t have the legal status to be in the United States.

Equal Protection Clause

The lawsuit also argued that Section 2(b) should be struck down because it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by discriminating against Latinos in Arizona, including those who are born in this country or have become naturalized U.S. citizens.

The complaint noted that the legislative history of SB 1070 “demonstrates a discriminatory intent”, pointing out that state lawmakers frequently “invented” disturbing facts about illegal immigration and purposely classified all Latinos – including U.S.-born children of Mexican descent – as “illegal aliens” to foment public support for the law.

“There is substantial evidence not only that S.B. 1070, and Section 2(b) in particular, will have a discriminatory impact but that it was also enacted with knowledge and intent that it would operate in a discriminatory manner,” according to the lawsuit.

Furthermore, the complaint asserted that Section 2(b) is not a “racially neutral law” and that its enforcement would likely be based upon the color of a person’s skin.

“Plaintiffs will be subject to racial profiling, additional police scrutiny, prolonged detention, and possible arrest if Section 2(b) is implemented,” stated the complaint.

This, the lawsuit claimed, would lead Latinos, including those who are in the U.S. legally, to go out less in public, participate in organized events, report crimes in their communities, or cooperate with local police “out of fear that they will be subject to arrest and detention by law enforcement officials due to their appearance and limited English-speaking ability.”

The case Valle del Sol, et al. v. Michael B. Whiting, et al. was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.


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2 Comments on “ACLU & civil rights groups challenge Arizona’s ‘show your papers’ immigration law

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