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Expect Civil Rights Challenges to Arizona “Papers Please” Provision

Just because the Supreme Court didn’t strike down the “papers please” provision in Arizona’s SB1070 before implementation doesn’t mean that the provision is in the clear. The Supreme Court gave stringent guidelines for how to proceed in seeking proof of citizenship from arrested suspects, and said they would hold open future challenges to the law. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the ruling, “detaining individuals solely to verify their immigration status would raise constitutional concerns.” And there are plenty of legal organizations ready with lawsuits if the immigration status checks veer into racial profiling.

Civil rights groups said they were already building cases. Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the group and its allies have amassed an $8.7 million war chest to fight state immigration enforcement.

“If it takes millions of dollars to restore this nation of immigrants, so be it,” he said at a press conference with other groups in Washington. The ACLU has joined in several other suits challenging the laws in Arizona and other states, most of which were put on hold pending the high court ruling. “We will bring these lawsuits wherever and whenever they come.” […]

Mary Bauer, legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, which challenged Alabama’s law, said she expects further challenges based on civil-rights violations for detainees.

Her office has already seen evidence that immigrants are being detained longer than necessary and that the enforcement is being done in a racially discriminatory way, she said. The center has heard from individuals who were detained even after ICE verified their legal status, Bauer said.

Considering that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has already said that, as far as he’s concerned, “nothing has changed,” there’s almost certain to be a lawsuit arising from disproportionate treatment of Latinos in state-based immigration sweeps. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has claimed that she will train law enforcement to operate within the boundaries of the new ruling, but I’m deeply skeptical. We’re going to see Constitutional violations and Constitutional challenges, and sooner rather than later.

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David Dayen

David Dayen