In Sunday’s Mercury News, reporters Linda Goldston and Vinne Tong wrote, “Arizona’s SB 1070 allows police to stop and ask about a person’s immigration status when they suspect the person could be in the U.S. illegally.” Is that true?
SB 1070 reads, “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or agency of this state…where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person.”
Racial profiling is illegal. A “lawful contact” must first take place before any law officer can ask about an individual’s legal status. Arizona cops can’t approach or pull people over to check to see if they are in the country legally. A spokesman for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said that the Governor believes that the new law will stand up to legal challenges because the law was, “designed and written to mirror existing federal law and to specifically prevent racial profiling.” (Wall Street Journal 4/30/10).
The Arizona Legislature took things a step further by refining some of the language contained in the bill. “Lawmakers on Thursday night changed the language to require scrutiny only of people who police stop, detain or arrest. They also changed a section of the bill that barred officers from “solely” using race as grounds for suspecting someone is in the country illegally; opponents had argued that that would allow for race to be a factor. The legislators removed the word “solely” to bar race from being used by officers enforcing the law.” (LA Times 5/1/10)
During a recent interview on C-SPAN, State Representative John Kavanagh, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, said that Section 19-18 of the U.S. Attorney’s Manual provides local officials with the legal authority to arrest illegal aliens. Kavanagh also cited a Supreme Court case that supported local authorities acting to enforce federal immigration law.
What happens next? What if, in a month or two, the Supreme Court rules that Arizona’s new immigration law is Constitutional?