Arizona's controversial new immigration law requires every noncitizen to carry "an alien registration document" and makes failure to do so (already a misdemeanor under federal law) a state crime punishable by up to six months in jail and a $2,500 fine. But because it also instructs police officers to make "a reasonable attempt" to "determine the immigration status of a person…if reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an unlawfully present alien," everyone in Arizona, including U.S. citizens, would be well advised to carry proof of his status to avoid a hassle. The law says "a person is presumed to not be an unlawfully present alien if the person provides…a valid Arizona driver license or nonoperating identification license," "a valid tribal enrollment card or other form of tribal identification," or "a valid U.S. federal, state or local government-issued identification if the entity requires proof of legal presence in the U.S. before issuance." Anyone not carrying one of these IDs runs the risk of being detained while the police verify his citizenship, which will be hard to do without an ID.
While police are prohibited from "solely considering race, color or national origin in implementing the requirement for determining and verifying immigration status," Hispanics obviously are at greatest risk for such encounters. (Likewise, although police are allowed to forgo the immigration check if it would interfere with an investigation, the general rule established by the law will further discourage illegal residents from cooperating with the police, whether as complainants or as witnesses.) Even though the law in effect requires everybody to carry an approved form of ID and present it to police on demand, the authors want us to know that "nothing in this act shall implement or shall be construed or interpreted to implement or establish the REAL ID act," a 2005 federal law that Arizona legislators rebelled against in large part because they feared the scenario they are now trying to achieve.