04.19.10

Immigration in Arizona

Posted in Changes in Law at 5:51 pm by Lalita Haran

Arizona State Legislature recently passed an immigration Bill that empowers local police officers to determine immigration status based upon reasonable suspicion and arrest a person if he couldn’t produce an immigration document, even if legally immigrated but couldn’t show the officer proof of it. For the first time in history, a State Bill makes it a crime to be an undocumented immigrant. The New Bill, if signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer would affect even tourists or temporary visitors to Arizona.

The Bill silently authorizes racial profiling, unconstitutional so far and could lead to police questioning and arrest. U.S. Constitution requires that police have reasonable suspicion of a crime to stop anyone for questioning. Predominantly, a different physical appearance, race, color or accent would raise a suspicion that a person is from another country and might be undocumented. Consequently, police could stop anyone who fits this criteria and demand proof of lawful presence. The Bill winks at the acts squarely opposing the set principles of the U.S. Constitution.

Obviously, Constitutional challenges against the Bill are lying ahead if it became the law. Immigration, historically, had been federally controlled both for legislative and enforcement purposes. Precedent is well set that States aren’t allowed to determine immigration status nor could punish for lack thereof. Historically, the States could only report to the federal government if a local law enforcement officer discovered an immigration violation by someone, only if the person was originally taken into custody for some crime or violation. The person remained in custody until transferred to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) which investigated for immigration violation. Lengthy detention by the State detention centers, if ICE didn’t take over, may breed litigation. The present Bill seems to circumscribe all precedents. It is the most draconian legislation in immigration history. Litigation is almost a certainty that would reestablish fundamental principles of the Constitutional Law which I hope are seriously followed by the Legislatures accross the country before attempting to legislate on immigration.

The Bill is a symbol of hate legislation and screams for Comprehensive Immigration Reform by Congress. What a waste of the tax money! Iimmigration is always easy to legislate. No bad immigration Law or Bill would put its sponsors out of their seat in the Legislature because the subjects sought to be regulated have no voting power to change anything at all. It is important to remember that immigrants, legal and illegal, are in the country to work and earn their living. There are others who form part of the family of U.S. citizens. Generally, one would see some favorable legislation for these family based immigrants. What we really need is a federal immigration reform that is remedial in nature in place of punitive State legislations on immigration waiting to be overturned.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association urged that the Governor Jan Brewer veto the unconstitutional bill. Untill then, beware if you have travel plans to Arizona.