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“Papers Please” Law Upheld PDF Print E-mail
Written by Andres Chavez Sun Staff Reporter   
Thursday, 20 September 2012 04:43

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled Tuesday, Sept. 18, that Arizona police, while enforcing other laws, can question suspects about their immigration status if they feel the suspects are in the country illegally. The ruling took effect immediately.

This decision is the latest in the two-year legal battle over the 2010 Arizona law. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law because it didn't conflict with federal law.

Opponents asked Bolton to block the law on the grounds it would lead to systematic racial profiling and unreasonably long detentions of Latinos. Earlier this month she said she wouldn't block the law and Tuesday gave the go ahead to enforce it.

A coalition of civil rights groups is awaiting a ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on their latest effort to prevent the questioning requirement from taking effect. "Our next step is seeing what happens with that," said Linton Joaquin, a lawyer for National Immigration Law Center, one of the groups in the coalition.

"Local, county, state and federal law agencies all have to make their own call (to determine) if this person looks reasonably suspicious (as) an undocumented person and they need to check their immigration status. What qualifies as reasonable and what qualifies as suspicious, what qualifies as someone who needs to check their immigration status is going to have thousands of different variables. It's going to play into a tremendous amount of racial profiling," said author and social historian Jeff Biggers.

Law enforcement officials can demand that suspects they detained for other reasons and whom they suspect of being in the U.S. illegally show documentation to prove their status. That's why opponents have named it the "show me your papers" law.

There has been speculation from some supporters of the law about how much cooperation federal agents will give them. Only federal officials can verify a person's immigration status and they will be responsible for picking up suspects from local law enforcement.

For their part, federal immigration officers say they will cooperate to the extent that it fits in with their priorities: catching repeat violators; the identification removal of people who are threats to public safety or national security.

If federal agents decline to pick up illegal immigrants, local officers in some cases will likely have to let them go unless they're suspected of committing a crime that would require them to be brought to jail.

Arizona's law was passed in 2010 by the Republican controlled legislature and signed gleefully by Republican governor Jan Brewer, who cited the state's role as the busiest illegal entry point in the country. Five other Republican controlled states – Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah – have adopted variations on Arizona's law.

The legal fight against the law went all the way to the Supreme Court. It struck down many parts of the law, including a requirement that immigrants obtain or carry immigration registration papers. But it allowed the questioning requirement – to supporters the most important part – to stand.

The latest challenge from a coalition of civil rights, religious and business groups claimed that Latinos in Arizona would face systematic racial profiling. Judge Bolton sided with the state's lawyers that the law's opponents were merely speculating about those claims. She did leave the door open to challenges once the law is in effect, if the claims can be proven.

"The idea that we have to wait to see if there is going to be racial profiling is waiting for the inevitable. We already know, through the experience, that in Arizona people are routinely stopped for reasons far beyond any level of suspicion, that there is a level of racial profiling, (and) targeting Latino communities," Biggers said.

"These kind of laws that require people to be judged by the color of their skin have no place in the United States, not today, not ever. Those of us who believe in human rights, believe in Civil Rights in the United States, believe we have an obligation to do something to make sure these laws are again taken to court and eventually overturned."

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Last Updated on Thursday, 20 September 2012 04:45