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Friday, July 12, 2024 | Back issues
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Cops Said to Abuse ‘Show Your Papers’ Law

PHOENIX (CN) - The ACLU filed a notice of claim against the South Tucson Police Department, claims its enforcement of Arizona's "show me your papers" law violates citizens' civil rights.

The claim was filed on behalf of Alejandro Valenzuela, 23, who had applied to stay in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Valenzuela claims he was unlawfully arrested and detained for five hours at the Customs and Border Patrol station in Tucson.

According to the ACLU's Notice of Claim, dated Nov. 12, Valenzuela got a phone call from a friend who was upset police had come to his house. Valenzuela went there and South Tucson police Officer Paul South told him to leave, the claim states.

Valenzuela returned to a car driven by a friend who went with him to the house and was parked a good distance away, but South followed him, took the keys from the car's ignition, and demanded the two provide identification, according to the notice.

South said, "I'm going to get this guy [Valenzuela] because he has no ID," the ACLU says in its 5-page notice.

Valenzuela claims he showed South identification from his community college, his bus card and a local work center, but South repeatedly asked him if he was a "citizen."

South allegedly told another officer that Valenzuela and his friend were "illegals," and took them to the Border Patrol station.

Valenzuela says he was detained for five hours until the Border Patrol confirmed he was eligible for the deferred action program.

Valenzuela was not charged with any crime.

"It didn't matter to the officers that I hadn't committed a crime," Valenzuela said in a statement released by the ACLU. "This is what happens when you let police act like immigration officials and it's another example of why the police have lost the community's trust."

Key provisions of Arizona's controversial immigration law, S.B. 1070, were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2012, but Arizona police are allowed to enforce the "show me your papers" provision.

The ACLU of Arizona says that Valenzuela isn't the only person whose rights have been violated since the Arizona law passed.

It cites the jailing of a 67-year-old Latino by Mesa Police after he picked a water bottle out of a trash can at a convenience store; the jailing of a passenger in a car stopped by Casa Grande Police for a burned-out taillight; and the search and detention of a legal resident who was questioned about his immigration status by Phoenix Police while picking up his car from an impound lot.

"We've been informed of dozens of incidents where police have violated individuals' rights because of the 'show me your papers' law," said James Lyall, the ACLU of Arizona's Tucson-based border attorney.

"Officers are routinely harassing people who have committed no crime by demanding identification. Without major improvements to police policies and practices, these rights violations will persist."

The ACLU of Arizona says Valenzuela will settle the claim for $100,000.

South Tucson is a small enclave surrounded by metropolitan Tucson.

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