Last week, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a controversial law, Senate Bill 1070 (pdf), concerning immigration and civil liberties. “Under Arizona’s new law, to take effect in 90 days, it will be a state crime to be in the country illegally, and legal immigrants will be required to carry paperwork proving their status. Arizona police will generally be required to question anyone they ‘reasonably suspect’ of being undocumented — a provision that critics argue will lead to widespread racial profiling, but that supporters insist will give authorities the flexibility to enforce existing immigration laws,” the Washington Post reported.
Critics have called for an economic boycott of the state, and protesters have demonstrated in Arizona and Washington, D.C. Lawsuits have been filed over the Arizona law. One lawsuit (pdf) was filed by 15-year Tuscon police officer Martin Escobar. “Escobar, an overnight patrol officer in a Latino area of Tucson, said there’s no way for officers to confirm people’s immigration status without impeding investigations and that the new law violates constitutional rights,” the Associated Press reported. “At least three Arizona cities — Phoenix, Flagstaff and Tucson — are considering legal action to block the law.”
Another lawsuit was filed by the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders and “alleged that the law improperly intruded into the federal government’s ability to regulate immigration. The complaint seeks an injunction to keep the law, signed last week by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, from going into effect this summer,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
Attorneys who successfully challenged laws against illegal immigrants in California, Texas and elsewhere argue that the Arizona law faces a similar fate because of the federal/state issue. Immigrant advocates also argue that the law could violate guarantees of equal protection if selectively enforced against certain ethnic groups. […]
But the attorney who helped write the Arizona law said he carefully crafted the measure to avoid those constitutional issues.
Kris Kobach, a University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor who handled immigration law and border security under U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft during the Bush administration, said the law does not seek to regulate immigration but merely adds state penalties for what are already federal crimes.
In response to charges that SB 1070 allows racial profiling, the state legislature has passed and Brewer has signed new legislation that makes tweaks to SB 1070. She said, “Taking into consideration questions and concerns that have been expressed about the SB1070 legislation I signed last week, today I signed HB 2162 which defines and clarifies even further the proper implementation and enforcement of the law. These changes specifically answer legal questions raised by some who expressed fears that the original law would somehow allow or lead to racial profiling. These new amendments make it crystal clear and undeniable that racial profiling is illegal, and will not be tolerated in Arizona.” SB 1070 is set to take effect in 90 days; HB 2162 also would take effect then.
CNN reported that critics do not think the revisions have gone far enough. “The changes to the law are not sufficient and will do little to positively affect daily law enforcement in Arizona, argued Clarissa Martinez De Castro of the National Council of La Raza, a major Latino civil rights organization.” One legal expert disagreed.
University of Arizona law professor Gabriel Chin told CNN that the changes to the bill are significant, insofar as they help remove a “huge disincentive for victims and witnesses to cooperate with the police.”
Under the original version of the law, he said, police officers would have been obligated to arrest a suspected illegal immigrant who approached them after being victimized. That would not be the case under the revised law.