The Arizona Legislature has passed what is clearly the most draconian immigration law in the country:
Arizona lawmakers on Tuesday approved what foes and supporters agree is the toughest measure in the country against illegal immigrants, directing local police to determine whether people are in the country legally.
The measure, long sought by opponents of illegal immigration, passed 35 to 21 in the state House of Representatives.
The state Senate passed a similar measure earlier this year, and Republican Gov. Jan Brewer is expected to sign the bill.
The bill’s author, State Sen. Russell Pearce, said it simply “takes the handcuffs off of law enforcement and lets them do their job.”
But police were deeply divided on the matter, with police unions backing it but the state police chief’s association opposing the bill, contending it could erode trust with immigrants who could be potential witnesses.
Immigrant rights groups were horrified, and contended that Arizona would be transformed into a police state.
“It’s beyond the pale,” said Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “It appears to mandate racial profiling.”
The bill, known as SB 1070, makes it a misdemeanor to lack proper immigration paperwork in Arizona. It also requires police officers, if they form a “reasonable suspicion” that someone is an illegal immigrant, to determine the person’s immigration status.
Currently, officers can inquire about someone’s immigration status only if the person is a suspect in another crime. The bill allows officers to avoid the immigration issue if it would be impractical or hinder another investigation.
Citizens can sue to compel police agencies to comply with the law, and no city or agency can formulate a policy directing its workers to ignore the law — a provision that advocates say prevents so-called sanctuary orders that police not inquire about people’s immigration status.
The implications of the bill are far-sweeping:
It would make not having immigration documents a new state misdemeanor, and allow officers to arrest anyone who could not immediately prove they were here legally. That means if you are brown-skinned and leave home without a wallet, you are in trouble.
Police agencies that believe overly tough enforcement tactics are undercutting their ability to fight crime would have to crack down anyway. The bill would require police officers who have “reasonable suspicion” about someone’s immigration status to demand to see documents. And it would empower anyone to sue any state agency or official or any county, city or town that he or she believes is not fully enforcing immigration law.
The bill, passed by Arizona’s Republican-controlled House on a party-line vote, has already passed the state Senate and will soon be before Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican. She has not said whether she will sign it.
Immigrant advocates and civil-rights lawyers are appalled, and so are police chiefs and sheriffs who say the bill is an assault on public safety, since it would force newly criminalized immigrants to fear and shun the police. It would divert law enforcement resources away from chasing violent offenders, and toward an all-out assault on the mostly harmless undocumented, with the innocent as collateral damage.
The idea of anyone being stopped by police for no reason and being asked to “show their papers” is something that should offend any American, and the fact that it would obviously be applied in a racially biased manner (Does anyone think a white guy is going to be stopped and asked for <em>his</em> papers ? Of course not) should make the law even more objectionable.
Handing power like this to police is a bad idea, especially when it deters them from investigating and preventing real crimes. (And, no, I don’t think the fact that some guy’s gardener might be here illegally is a real crime).
One hopes that Governor Brewer has the guts to veto this, but I’m not optimistic.
H/T: Balloon Juice