April 14, 2010 in Nation/World

Arizona passes law on illegals

Lets police probe person’s legal status
Nicholas Riccardi Los Angeles Times
 

Arizona lawmakers on Tuesday approved what foes and supporters agree is the toughest measure in the country against illegal immigrants, directing local police to determine whether people are in the country legally.

The measure, long sought by opponents of illegal immigration, passed 35-21 in the state House of Representatives.

The state Senate passed a similar measure earlier this year, and Republican Gov. Jan Brewer is expected to sign the bill.

The bill’s author, state Sen. Russell Pearce, said it simply “takes the handcuffs off of law enforcement and lets them do their job.”

But police were deeply divided on the matter, with police unions backing it but the state police chief’s association opposing the bill, contending it could erode trust with immigrants who could be potential witnesses.

Immigrant rights groups were horrified, and contended that Arizona had been transformed into a police state.

“It’s beyond the pale,” said Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “It appears to mandate racial profiling.”

The bill, known as SB 1070, makes it a misdemeanor to lack proper immigration paperwork in Arizona. It also requires police officers, if they form a “reasonable suspicion” that someone is an illegal immigrant, to determine the person’s immigration status.

Currently, officers can inquire about someone’s immigration status only if the person is a suspect in another crime. The bill allows officers to avoid the immigration issue if it would be impractical or hinder another investigation.

The bill cements the position of Arizona, whose border with Mexico is the most popular point of entry for illegal immigrants into the United States, as the state most aggressively using its own laws to fight illegal immigration. In 2006 the state passed a law that would dissolve companies with a pattern of hiring illegal immigrants. Last year it made it a crime for a government worker to give improper benefits to an illegal immigrant.

The ACLU and other groups have vowed to sue to block the new bill from taking effect should Brewer sign it. They note that a federal court struck down a New Hampshire law in 2005 that said illegal immigrants were trespassing, declaring that only the federal government has the authority to enforce immigration. Another provision of the Arizona law, which makes day laborers illegal, violates the First Amendment, critics contend.


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