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Friday, July 19, 2024 | Back issues
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ACLU Files Amicus|Brief Against Arizona

PHOENIX (CN) - The ACLU filed an amicus brief in the 9th Circuit, saying that Arizona's "vague and unworkable" immigration law would subject people to "unlawful detention and arrest" if the circuit lifts an order enjoining implementation of sections of it.

The American Civil Liberties Union claims that Arizona's Senate Bill 1070 - the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act - violates the "narrow limits that federal law places on state and local enforcement of federal immigration law." Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill into law on April 23.

The law would require officers to check a person's immigration status, and allows officers to make a warrantless arrest if there is probable cause to believe the person committed an offense or is removable from the United States. It also would make it illegal for an undocumented alien to apply for or carry registration papers, and it bars undocumented aliens from working.

The ACLU claims that expert law enforcement officials "have confirmed" that the enjoined sections of the bill are "vague and unworkable, cannot be implemented in a race-neutral fashion, and will inevitably lead to profiling and unlawful detentions."

It cites an investigation that studied eight Maricopa County Sheriff's Office crime suppression operations and found that the majority of drivers and passengers arrested were Hispanic, even in white areas.

The law wrongly asserts that noncitizens do not need to carry papers to confirm their status because most know their alien registration number by heart, the ACLU says. Alien registration numbers are not used frequently, like Social Security numbers, "nor has Arizona established that all noncitizens with permission to reside in the country are even provided a document by the federal government assigning them an A-number," the ACLU says.

The law's requirement that police ask about immigration status if officers suspect that a person is in the United States illegally "cannot be enforced in a race neutral manner" because officers are likely to "use various laws as a pretext to stop Latinos and others they suspect - based on sight and sound - of being unlawfully present," the brief states.

Police chiefs from Arizona and across the nation found that officers will resort to using "racial and ethnic appearance to form the requisite suspicion" to enforce the law, the ACLU claims.

Many people detained will be minor offenders who would have been cited and immediately released, the brief claims.

Most of Arizona's officers "are detention officers authorized to conduct only detention functions, and applying their certification to inquiries from the field," as the state ordered, would violate the agencies' agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the ACLU claims.

The state falsely alleges that "reasonable suspicion of unlawful presence" will rarely exist for a legal alien, the ACLU says. It adds that the "fact that Arizona completely fails to grasp the complexity of immigration status determinations further highlights the danger of allowing the enjoined provisions to go into effect."

On July 28, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton blocked portions of the law requiring that officers check a person's immigration status, that immigrants carry papers with them, and a section making it illegal for undocumented workers to solicit employment in public.

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