Arizona Immigration Measures Renew Debate

Arizona Governor Janice Brewer signed a controversial immigration bill into law on April 23, sparking a renewed interest in the immigration debate. President Obama was immediately critical of the legislation that, in his words, “threaten[s] to undermine basic notions of fairness” and was “misguided.”

The new law (S.B. 1070, 2010 Ariz. ALS 113, 2010 Ariz. Ch. 113, as amended by H.B. 2162) requires authorities to determine the immigration status of a person during any legitimate stop, detention, or arrest made by a state or municipal official or agency if a reasonable suspicion exists that the person is unlawfully in the United States.

The law establishes crimes including trespassing and stopping to hire or soliciting work under specified circumstances, stipulates that it is unlawful for a person who is unlawfully present in the United States and who is an unauthorized alien to knowingly apply for work or solicit work in a public place or perform work as an employee or independent contractor, and expressly forbids communities from becoming sanctuaries, among a host of other restrictive provisions.

Brewer, upon signing the bill, said that Arizonans have been “more than patient waiting for Washington to act. But decades of federal inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation.” She added that she “will NOT tolerate racial discrimination or racial profiling in Arizona.” She issued an Executive Order to make that explicit.

Obama, in a speech that same day at a naturalization ceremony for U.S. military personnel held at the White House, told the nation that he had “instructed members of [his] administration to closely monitor the situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation.” The White House counsel’s office and the Department of Justice are reviewing the Arizona law to see whether it is constitutional and could lead to any sort of racial profiling, according to a Washington Post report on April 23.

Less than a week after Brewer signed S.B. 1070, set to take effect ninety days after the end of the legislative session -- that is, this summer -- multiple lawsuits were filed challenging the law. The first suit filed, brought by fifteen-year Tucson police veteran Martin Escobar, alleges that the law violates constitutional rights and could hinder police investigation in Hispanic-prevalent areas. Soon after, Phoenix police officer David Salgado filed a suit alleging that the law violates his Fourteenth Amendment right of equal protection under the law. The National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders sued in U.S. District Court, seeking an injunction preventing the law from taking effect. The suit alleges that the law is illegal because it usurps federal authority in immigration enforcement.

The ACLU of Arizona joined forces with the National Immigration Law Center and the Mexican American Legal Defense Educational Fund in announcing their intent to challenge the law. The groups promise a “vigorous and sophisticated” legal challenge to prevent “this unconstitutional and discriminatory law from ever taking effect,” according to a press release from the ACLU of Arizona.

On April 30, Brewer signed amending legislation, H.B. 2162, to try to address some of the criticisms of the original law.

Nonetheless, protests over the law took place in over seventy cities around the United States on May Day. An estimated 60,000 rallied in Los Angeles, demanding a repeal of the law.

For the texts of both S.B. 1070 and H.B. 2162 and of the Executive Order (Number 2010-09), and an Emerging Issues Analysis by Julie Myers Wood, former DHS Assistant Secretary in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, visit lexis.com or LexisNexis’s Emerging Issues Community at http://www.lexisnexis.com/community/ emergingissues/. Also on the Emerging Issues site is a link to a podcast on the law by the BIB’s editor-in-chief, Dan Kowalski.

[This is an excerpt from the May 15, 2010, issue of Bender’s Immigration Bulletin.]