Issue Report: Arizona illegal immigration law

Background and context

Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070 into law on April 23, 2010. The law, formally known as the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, is a hard-line bill designed to identify, charge, and potentially deport illegal immigrants currently residing in Arizona. The legislation mandates that immigrants carry their papers at all times, and that police verify the legal status of individuals during the course of traffic stops or other law-enforcement actions, and when there is a “reasonable suspicion” that the individuals under question are illegal aliens. The legislation makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally, and ratchets-up punishments against those that harbor or transport illegal immigrants and against employers that hire them. Citizens can hold state and local governments and agencies accountable by suing any of these bodies that fail to carry out immigration-related enforcement. In the broadest sense, Arizona has picked a side in the immigration debate. It favors finding, punishing, and potentially deporting illegal immigrants, instead of seeking ways to integrate them into American society through, for example, a “path to citizenship.” The arguments in this larger debate, and surrounding the specifics of Arizona’s law are presented below.

Principles: Is Arizona's law sound in principle?

Arizona immigration law merely enforces existing law

Kris Kobach. "Why Arizona Drew a Line." New York Times. April 28th, 2010

“we already have plenty of federal immigration laws on the books, and the typical illegal alien is guilty of breaking many of them. What we need is for the executive branch to enforce the laws that we already have.”

Arizona has every right to fight illegal immigration

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said at the bill-signing

“Border-related violence and crime due to illegal immigration are critically important issues to the people of our state. We cannot sacrifice our safety to the murderous greed of drug cartels. We cannot stand idly by as drop houses, kidnappings and violence compromise our quality of life.”

Arizona immigration law awkward, but necessary

Jonah Goldberg. "Arizona's ugly but necessary immigration law." Los Angeles Times. April 29th, 2010

“I agree that there’s something ugly about the police asking citizens for their ‘papers.’ (There’s nothing particularly ugly about asking illegal immigrants for their papers, though.) There’s also something ugly about American citizens being physically searched at airports, or about IRS agents prying into nearly all of your personal-financial transactions or, thanks to the passage of ObamaCare, serving as health insurance enforcers. In other words, many government functions are unappealing. That’s not in itself an argument against them. The Patriot Act was ugly – and necessary.”

Fear-mongering surrounding Arizona law is unjustified

James Edwards. "Arizona Gets it Right on Illegal Immigration." Human Events. April 27th, 2010

“The law, badly needed to fight the vicious foreign-born crime epidemic that illegal immigration nurtures in Arizona, bears little resemblance to the fear-mongering claims of the law’s opponents.”

General statements in favor of Arizona's illegal immigration law

Arizona illegal immigration law is indecent & mean-spirited

Richard Cohen. "In Arizona, immigration creates another Tea Party moment." Washington Post. April 27th, 2010

“Arizona’s draconian new immigration law is an abomination — racist, arbitrary, oppressive, mean-spirited, unjust. About the only hopeful thing that can be said is that the legislation, which Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed Friday, goes so outrageously far that it may well be unconstitutional.”

Arizona law creates a class of suspects

Michael Gerson. "A test of Arizona's political character." Washington Post. April 28, 2010

“This law creates a suspect class, based in part on ethnicity, considered guilty until they prove themselves innocent. It makes it harder for illegal immigrants to live without scrutiny — but it also makes it harder for some American citizens to live without suspicion and humiliation. Americans are not accustomed to the command ‘Your papers, please,’ however politely delivered.”

Arizona law creates environment of fear and recrimination

Raul A. Reyes. "Arizona's un-American immigration law." Los Angeles Times. April 28th, 2010

“many of Arizona’s roughly 2 million Latinos are wondering about how this law will affect their personal freedom. They are concerned for their children’s safety. They are searching for identification documents for older relatives. Many Latinos, no doubt, will be afraid to venture out without ‘papers,’ even if they are legal residents or U.S. citizens. This type of fear has no place in our society.”

Statements against Arizona immigration law

Singer Linda Ronstadt. “My family, of both German and Mexican heritage, has a long history in Arizona. It has been our diverse and shared history in this state that unites us and makes us stronger. What Governor Brewer signed into law last week is a piece of legislation that threatens the very heart of this great state.”

Reasonable suspicion: Will reasonable suspicion of illegality be applied fairly?

Arizona cops will justly apply "reasonable suspicion" of illegals

Kris Kobach. "Why Arizona Drew a Line." New York Times. April 28th, 2010

“[Argument:] ‘Reasonable suspicion’ is a meaningless term that will permit police misconduct. [Counter-argument:] Over the past four decades, federal courts have issued hundreds of opinions defining those two words. The Arizona law didn’t invent the concept: Precedents list the factors that can contribute to reasonable suspicion; when several are combined, the ‘totality of circumstances’ that results may create reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed. […] For example, the Arizona law is most likely to come into play after a traffic stop. A police officer pulls a minivan over for speeding. A dozen passengers are crammed in. None has identification. The highway is a known alien-smuggling corridor. The driver is acting evasively. Those factors combine to create reasonable suspicion that the occupants are not in the country legally.”

Arizona law requires unlawful act and "reasonable suspicion" for arrests

Cops will trump up charges in order to find illegals

Shikha Dalmia. "Arizona's Law: Anti-Immigrant And Anti-Constitutional." Forbes. April 5th, 2010

“The amended law limits such inquiries to instances when cops make a lawful stop, detention or arrest in the course of enforcing some other law or local ordinance. But including local ordinances as grounds for an immigration inquiry opens all kinds of tantalizing harassment possibilities for officials like Joe Arpaio–the notorious but popular Arizona sheriff who has made it his personal mission to root out undocumented aliens from the state by launching crime sweeps in Latino communities on the flimsiest of pretexts. […] Under the new law, Arpaio could troll Hispanic neighborhoods demanding the papers of anyone breaking, say, a local pooper-scooper law while walking their dogs.”

Carrying papers: Is it just to force illegals to carry papers?

Arizona merely enforces law that aliens carry papers

Stan Sudero. "Arizona's law has national support." The Reporter. May 2nd, 2010

“As far as the so-called “show me your papers law,” federal law has long dictated that every alien, 18 years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession proof of alien registration. Failure to comply can result in a misdemeanor conviction, $100 fine and/or 30 days imprisonment for each violation.”

Being forced to show papers in Arizona is no big deal

Mike Rosen. "Arizona is just taking a stand." Denver Post. May 6th, 2010

“The downside is that some people — citizens, visitors, immigrants and foreign workers — legally in the state may be inconvenienced if asked to identify themselves or show their immigration documents. I’ve been asked to show my “papers” when traveling in foreign countries. Big deal.”

Nothing to worry about as long as you have papers.

Carrying papers is no more inconvenient than carrying a drivers license or any other form of ID. It is a tradeoff for a person coming to live in the country rather than in Mexico.

Arizona law burdens immigrants who must carry papers

Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona

“If this law were implemented, citizens would effectively have to carry ‘their papers’ at all times to avoid arrest. It is a low point in modern America when a state law requires police to demand documents from people on the street.”

Racial profiling: Does the law avoid racial profiling?

Arizona law does not allow for racial profiling

Kris Kobach. "Why Arizona Drew a Line." New York Times. April 28th, 2010

“The law will allow police to engage in racial profiling. Actually, Section 2 provides that a law enforcement official “may not solely consider race, color or national origin” in making any stops or determining immigration status. In addition, all normal Fourth Amendment protections against profiling will continue to apply. In fact, the Arizona law actually reduces the likelihood of race-based harassment by compelling police officers to contact the federal government as soon as is practicable when they suspect a person is an illegal alien, as opposed to letting them make arrests on their own assessment.”

"Reasonable suspicion" in Arizona will lead to racial profiling

Raul A. Reyes. "Arizona's un-American immigration law." Los Angeles Times. April 28th, 2010

“When she signed this law, Gov. Jan Brewer stated that she would not tolerate racial profiling. Yet at a news conference, she was unable to answer the question ‘What does an illegal immigrant look like?’ If she doesn’t know, how are police to know? Because Arizona’s law offers no guidance as to what constitutes a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that someone is undocumented, police will likely resort to profiling of Latinos on an unprecedented level. Isn’t Goldberg outraged by these apparent violations of the 4th Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure? Or of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause? Guess not.”

Arizona immigration law invites abusive racial profiling

Arizona law will harass, jail Latinos w/o papers on them

"Editorial: Arizona immigration law a throwback to a sadder era." The Scramento Bee. Apr. 28, 2010

“Arizona is a state of about 6.6 million people, with about 15 percent foreign-born, according to the U.S. census. Under the new law, those who can’t immediately prove they’re working in the United States legally may find themselves detained by police as they go about daily life.”

Blacks are profiled; Latinos in Arizona will be too

According to the U.S. Census, approximately 30% of the population in Arizona are of Hispanic or Latino origin. In truth a person of any descent could be an illegal immigrant. Can an officer of the law really apply this law without being influenced by a persons race? Sharing a border with Mexico only increases the likelihood that an officer will be unjustly prejudiced in suspecting a hispanic is an illegal immigrant.

Arizona immigration law partly driven by racism

"Arizona law will invite racial profiling." Wiked Local. May 3, 2010

“It’s a scary piece of legislation that will invite racial profiling. What does an “illegal immigrant” look like? In Arizona’s case, it will be someone with brown skin. […] The state that resisted a Martin Luther King holiday seems to relish discouraging people with darker shades of skin. […] Arizona voters approved a King holiday in 1992, but only after a tourist boycott and loss of the 1993 Super Bowl, which was supposed to have been played in Tempe. This year’s action might cost the state baseball’s 2011 All-Star game.”

Arizona law allows suing of police, encourages racial profiling

"Arizona's discriminatory immigration law is wrong." St Petersburg Times Editorial. April 27, 2010

“the provision allowing people to sue officials for not enforcing the law is red meat intended to hound police agencies to boost their arrest numbers.”

Feasibility: Is implementation feasible?

Arizona does not deport illegals, it encourages self-deportation

James Edwards. "Arizona Gets it Right on Illegal Immigration." Human Events. April 27th, 2010

“The law, which GOP Gov. Jan Brewer signed April 23, uses state police authority to step up pressure on illegal aliens. This should help force many to leave the state—and the country—on their own or else face time behind bars. […] This measure promotes attrition through enforcement, the most reasonable, rational strategy on the enforcement side of the immigration equation.”

"The law, which GOP Gov. Jan Brewer signed April 23, uses state police authority to step up pressure on illegal aliens. This should help force many to leave the state—and the country—on their own or else face time behind bars. [...] This measure promotes attrition through enforcement, the most reasonable, rational strategy on the enforcement side of the immigration equation."

Kris Kobach. "Why Arizona Drew a Line." New York Times. April 28th, 2010

“In sum, the Arizona law hardly creates a police state. It takes a measured, reasonable step to give Arizona police officers another tool when they come into contact with illegal aliens during their normal law enforcement duties.”

Arizona law would strain federal govt with deportations

Shikha Dalmia. "Arizona's Law: Anti-Immigrant And Anti-Constitutional." Forbes. May 5th, 2010

“if states unilaterally start arresting undocumented aliens and dispatching them to the federal government for deportation, they will force the federal government to expend law enforcement resources on immigration when it might have other, more pressing, concerns such as, say, terrorism.”

Arizona immigration law will increase lawsuits and costs

Michael Gerson. "A test of Arizona's political character." Washington Post. April 28, 2010

“The government of Arizona, it turns out, has been ambushed by its own legislature. If this vague law is applied vigorously, the state will be regularly sued by citizens who are wrongfully stopped. But if the law is not applied vigorously enough, it contains a provision allowing citizens to sue any agency or official who ‘limits or restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws.’ Either way, lawyers rejoice.”

Deterrence: Does Arizona's law deter illegal immigration?

Arizona immigration law helps deter illegal immigrants

"Arizona immigration law is sound, needed." Watertown Daily Times. May 6th, 2010

“such proactive enforcement has a continuing deterrent effect, as violators realize they cannot indefinitely avoid law enforcement contact.”

Arizona law encourages illegal immigration.

Although conventional wisdom presumes that a prohibitory law will have the desired effect, careful studies of law often show the opposite effect

the behavior they are supposed to inhibit actually increases. Attempts to ban alcohol consumption, teen smoking, advertising, pornography, and fast driving are among the many instances of prohibitions that have backfired.

Crime: Will Arizona's law help reduce crime in Arizona?

The new immigration law will decrease crime rates in Arizona.

Illegal immigrants are often, although not always, involved in other crimes, particularly drug-trafficking. Cracking down on illegal immigrants will, therefore, have a positive effect in reducing crime rates in Arizona.

Arizona law represents a much needed step away from anarchy.

In general, the absence of the enforcement of immigration laws in Arizona creates a sense of anarchy in the state, and a certain feeling among criminals that they can commit crimes without concern for punishment.

Arizona law causes distrust of police, undermines enforcement

Eugene Robinson. "Arizona's new immigration law is an act of vengeance." April 27, 2010

“One of the concrete problems with the law treating undocumented immigrants as criminals is that it gives those without papers a powerful incentive to stay as far away from police as possible. This will only make it more difficult for local police to investigate crimes and track down fugitive offenders, because no potential witness who is undocumented will come forward.”

Arizona law puts police under contradicting missions

Joel Jacobsen, assistant attorney general, criminal appeals division for New Mexico

“This obviously puts police in an impossible situation because it requires them to pursue two goals simultaneously: to enforce the immigration laws; and to enforce the criminal laws, keep the peace, provide assistance, and all the other ordinary tasks of police officers. Which goal should they pursue? It will frequently not be possible to do both, because the officer will be required to arrest perpetrator and victim both, and the punishment experienced by the victim of a violent crime will frequently be more severe and life-disrupting – deportation – than that experienced by the perpetrator – a night in jail, perhaps.”

To access the second half of this Issue Report or Buy Issue Report

To access the second half of all Issue Reports or