Arizona Immigration Law 'an Open Invitation for Racial Profiling by State Police'

April 27, 2010

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The passage of SB 1070 in Arizona this week requires police to determine whether people are in the United States legally if there is a reason to suspect they aren't. The law, scheduled to go into effect 90 days after the close of the state's legislative session, would require immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times.

Laura A. Hernandez, assistant professor at Baylor Law School, has studied immigration reform and has reviewed the bill, evaluating it as:

"...an open invitation for racial profiling by state police who are already over-anxious about the increased drug-related violence spilling across the United States border from Mexico."

She continues:

"The textual language of SB 1070 is impermissibly vague on due process grounds in that it 'requires' police to detain suspects 'when practicable' upon a suspicion of illegal entry into the country. The circumstances that determine practicability are unclear and are open to wide and discriminatory application.

"It goes without saying that many legal immigrants and American citizens of Hispanic descent are not fluent in English. This may be enough for suspicion of illegal entry and grounds for detainment in Arizona. Moreover, the documents requirement can also be abused as most American citizens do not carry proof of citizenship, such a birth certificates or passports, on their person.

"This law will place an additional burden/requirement on citizenship for those of Hispanic descent which also appears to violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. Finally, Arizona is criminalizing the act of forgetting 'identity papers' that requires heightened scrutiny on the state's purpose for the law as it clearly discriminates on a racial basis.

"It is likely that the federal immigration laws will preempt Arizona state law because it appears to be conveying immigration enforcement authority to local police. It was on this basis that three federal courts enjoined housing ordinances in three different states that attempted to foist this same enforcement authority to private landlords."

Hernandez earned bachelor degrees from Stanford University in both communications and economics and her law degree from Southern Methodist University. Prior to joining the Baylor Law School faculty in 2007, she spent 11 years in private litigation practice, first in Los Angeles, then in San Antonio.

Contact: Jill Scoggins, Assistant Vice President for Media Communications, (254) 710-1964

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