PHOENIX (CN) – A group of cities and counties, including Los Angeles, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Portland, Ore., San Francisco, New Haven and Seattle, claim Arizona’s “comprehensive state immigration enforcement regime” will force local governments to use scarce resources to enforce an unconstitutional law, threatening public safety.
The amicus brief, filed in Federal Court in support of civil rights groups who challenged the Arizona law, also claims the law will make immigrants, legal or not, “deeply distrustful of local governments and law enforcement officials.”
The cities and counties claim that local law enforcement will be forced to use “means that are unconstitutional, vague, impractical, costly, and deeply damaging” to the relationships they have built with immigrant communities.
The law wrongly asserts that federal immigration law “is the responsibility of local government officials” and forces local officers to prioritize enforcing federal law over serious public safety threats, the cities say.
The law’s requirement that police ask about immigration status if officers suspect that a person is in the United States illegally is “troubling” because “the federal government is almost certainly unprepared to comply with the increased flow of requests … and thus local law enforcement officials are likely to experience long delays waiting for the federal government to respond to their requests,” the brief claims.
Many people detained will be minor offenders who would have been cited and immediately released, the cities say. This will make immigrants fear local law enforcement officers, who will become “enforcers of immigration law.” Police departments’ ability to “engage in effective crime detection, investigation, prosecution, and prevention” will be undermined, endangering all members of the community, the cities say.
While the state may argue that only undocumented aliens need fear the new law, “natural born and naturalized U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and others with authorization to reside in the country may justifiably fear being caught in the net of unworkable standards,” the cities and counties say. They add that the chance that immigrants may be asked for their “papers” and detained while their status is investigated, “is enough to deter many crime victims, witnesses, and other community members from approaching the police, even if they have legal status.”
Local law enforcement officers are trained to determine if a person is committing a criminal act, but officers have “no expertise in identifying facts that might support reasonable suspicion that an individual is unlawfully present in the United States in violation of federal civil immigration law,” the brief states. It adds that despite its claims to the contrary, officers will have to use racial profiling, including race, ethnicity, and fluency in English, to determine a person’s immigration status because the law does not provide officers with any guidance on how to establish “reasonable suspicion.”
Joining in the brief are the cities of Berkeley, Palo Alto, and St. Paul, and the counties of Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Monterey, and San Francisco.
Also filing amicus briefs challenging the law were Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, La Raza, and the Asian American Institute.