PHOENIX (CN) – The American Bar Association filed an amicus brief in support of civil rights groups who challenged the constitutionality of Arizona’s new immigration law. The ABA says may increase police officers’ racial profiling and detention of citizens, increase the burden on Arizona’s court system, and usurps “federal authority to manage and supervise immigration law enforcement matters.” The law is slated to take effect July 28.
The 400,000-member ABA says that racial profiling will be used to enforce the law, regardless of its claims to limit the use of “race, color or national origin ‘to the extent permitted by the United States or Arizona Constitution.'”
The ABA cites a 2008 University of Cincinnati report claiming that Arizona Highway Patrol officers were “more than twice as likely to search vehicles driven by Hispanics and blacks than those operated by Anglos during 2006.”
The ABA says the risk of racial profiling is increased by the law’s requirement to detain a person until his or her immigration status has been verified, because once the initial stop has finished without reasonable cause for detention based on criminal activity, “the likelihood is great that continued detention will be based on nothing more than racial profiling.”
Also, detentions may occur without due process because “the multiple federal databases containing immigration-related information from the various agencies are poorly integrated and are often incomplete or inaccurate.”
The ABA cites an unpublished 2006 study by the Vera Institute of Justice which identified 125 people in immigration detention centers who were believed to be U.S. citizens.
Some detained noncitizens may have claims to lawful status based on fear of persecution or torture in their homeland, or as victims of human trafficking or domestic violence, or their relationship to U.S. citizens, according to the report.
Mandatory detention may increase the burden placed on the state, the ABA says, because Arizona must adhere to due process protections, including state-appointed counsel if a detainee cannot afford a lawyer.
The law may also cause problems for prosecutors, the brief claims, who might be forced to wait for mandatory verification requirements to decide whether criminal charges will be brought.
The ABA says the law usurps federal authority over immigration matters and will “nullify any requirement that Arizona state and local law enforcement agencies, when engaging in immigration enforcement activities, must operate within the statutory power” that the Congress has given to the Department of Homeland Security. Arizona law enforcement officers are not required to participate in a training program before the law is implemented since it is an “agency-to-agency issue.”
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union also filed an amicus brief, claiming the law “expands general police powers to unconstitutionally allow for routine identification checks on all citizens, including those outside the targeted group of individuals suspected of unlawful presence.”
The law requires that police ask people about their immigration status if they have any suspicion that a person is in the United States illegally. It also prohibits day laborers from “blocking traffic” on the streets and makes being in Arizona illegally a misdemeanor.