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Arizona Starts Implementing “Papers Please” Law

Arizona starts "papers, please" enforcement. Protest of SB1070 in Minnesota, 2010 (photo: Fibonaci Blue / flickr)

That didn’t take long. A day after getting a ruling that would not take down the “show your papers” section of their immigration law, Arizona rushed to implement the section at the local law enforcement level. The state has specific guidelines to use to determine when to ask for immigration papers, but already they sound so broad as to capture just about everyone stopped by a cop:

Arizona tells police officers to look for specific signs that indicate they should ask for immigration papers when stopping a person. These signals include lack of a license, driving a car with foreign plates, difficulty speaking English and seeming nervous. Officers must be careful not to stop someone for more than a “reasonable” amount of time while verifying his or her status, however, or the inquiry could violate the stopped person’s rights. Gov. Jan Brewer says officers have been trained not to racially profile while implementing the new law.

Seeming nervous? Wouldn’t that define everyone stopped by the cops in the highly polarized environment of Arizona, particularly if the subject is Latino? And since when should difficulty speaking English necessarily arouse suspicion?

The police chief in Tucson, Roberto Villasenor, stated his concern that his police department will get a torrent of lawsuits from people improperly questioned about their immigration status. And I would say that he’s probably right. If that ends up deterring local police chiefs from implementation, then good. But it’s not like Joe Arpaio will stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration has already rolled out some aids for those seeking help for violations of their civil rights. We already know that they stopped the 287(g) program in Arizona, which deputizes local officials to make arrests on immigration violations. They have also set up a hotline for the public to register complaints about abuses. The phone number is 855-353-1010, and there’s also an email at SB1070@usdoj.gov. In addition, the Administration plans to continue to maintain its priorities on who they will deport, reserving the highest priority for violent criminals and repeat offenders, while minimizing other undocumented immigrants. This means that Arizona law enforcement would have to let the person go if the feds did not pick him or her up for deportation.

The guidelines are so tight and the margins for error so narrow, I have to think this all blows up within a few weeks or so, by Arpaio if not someone else.

CommunityThe Bullpen

Arizona Starts Implementing “Papers Please” Law

That didn’t take long. A day after getting a ruling that would not take down the “show your papers” section of their immigration law, Arizona rushed to implement the section at the local law enforcement level. The state has specific guidelines to use to determine when to ask for immigration papers, but already they sound so broad as to capture just about everyone stopped by a cop:

Arizona tells police officers to look for specific signs that indicate they should ask for immigration papers when stopping a person. These signals include lack of a license, driving a car with foreign plates, difficulty speaking English and seeming nervous. Officers must be careful not to stop someone for more than a “reasonable” amount of time while verifying his or her status, however, or the inquiry could violate the stopped person’s rights. Gov. Jan Brewer says officers have been trained not to racially profile while implementing the new law.

Seeming nervous? Wouldn’t that define everyone stopped by the cops in the highly polarized environment of Arizona, particularly if the subject is Latino? And since when should difficulty speaking English necessarily arouse suspicion?

The police chief in Tucson, Roberto Villasenor, stated his concern that his police department will get a torrent of lawsuits from people improperly questioned about their immigration status. And I would say that he’s probably right. If that ends up deterring local police chiefs from implementation, then good. But it’s not like Joe Arpaio will stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration has already rolled out some aids for those seeking help for violations of their civil rights. We already know that they stopped the 287(g) program in Arizona, which deputizes local officials to make arrests on immigration violations. They have also set up a hotline for the public to register complaints about abuses. The phone number is 855-353-1010, and there’s also an email at SB1070@usdoj.gov. In addition, the Administration plans to continue to maintain its priorities on who they will deport, reserving the highest priority for violent criminals and repeat offenders, while minimizing other undocumented immigrants. This means that Arizona law enforcement would have to let the person go if the feds did not pick him or her up for deportation.

The guidelines are so tight and the margins for error so narrow, I have to think this all blows up within a few weeks or so, by Arpaio if not someone else.

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David Dayen

David Dayen