Why Arizona’s Immigration Law is Supremely Foolish

11 Oct
by Ryan Maness · July 22, 2010

Ever since Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law, everyone and their mother has weighed in to opine on the merits of Arizona’s battle against undocumented immigrants. Well, now it’s my turn. Because I’ve actually read the law.

And trust me, it’s a dumb one. Let me walk you through why. (For those of you who want to follow along, please proceed to the following link.)

There’s plenty in the law to puzzle over, but today, we’ll focus on the most publicized portion of the bill: section11-1051(B) — which for our purposes, we’ll call the “Papers Please Section.” This part of the law lies at the heart of the bill’s controversy. In essence, it declares that if you’re an Arizona law enforcement officer and you have reasonable suspicion that a person is in the country illegally, you shall take steps to determine their immigration status.

Shall is a powerful word here, because it means that Arizona’s government is commanding you — as, say, a Phoenix police officer — to look for undocumented immigrants. This is why a lot of Arizona cops are upset about the bill, which the Obama administration is now suing Arizona over as unconstitutional. On top of their regular duties of, you know, keeping people safe, officers now have to actively try to round up so-called “illegal aliens,” too.

Fortunately, Arizona police departments are swimming in money and have more than enough maintain services. Oh, wait.

But we’re not done here. To really understand the full implications of what’s going on here, you have to understand what the phrase ‘reasonable suspicion’ means in this context. Legally, there’s a whole hierarchy of different kinds of suspicions that apply in different contexts. Some you might be familiar with are the terms ‘probable cause’ and ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ Reasonable suspicion is the rambunctious young brother of those other two, because it’s the most relaxed and requires the least evidence in order to meet it.

As an example, an officer can have a reasonable suspicion that I’m dealing drugs if he sees me in a bad neighborhood at night looking shifty. It’s such a wide standard that practically anything and everything can prompt it. So here, Arizona is giving officers a carte blanche when it comes to questioning people, but no guidance about how to narrow down their suspects.

So let’s sum up. Police officers are busy people and perform a vital function to society. States across the country are having money trouble in our dire economic climate. Arizona has commanded all of its officers to actively look for people who might be undocumented immigrants, but instead of giving them training on exactly what to look for, the government told the officers, “Hey guys, just go with your gut.” Yeah, this law is a winner.

Photo Credit: fibonacciblue

Ryan Maness is a career criminal defense attorney and death penalty abolitionist who has represented indigent clients in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Colorado.

 

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This is a reblog. Visit the original post

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