If You're Going to Arizona, Be Sure to Have a Passport in Your Car


My column tomorrow is about the recent revisions to Arizona's new immigration law, which I don't think will do much to discourage the sort of racial profiling practiced by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. One change I did not have space to discuss is a reduction in the penalty for legal residents who fail to carry their immigration papers. In the original version (PDF) of the law, this new state offense was punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of $2,500, the usual penalty for a Class 1 misdemdeanor. In the revised version (PDF), the maximum penalty is a $100 fine plus 20 days in jail, 30 days for repeat offenders. The new penalty corresponds to the one for the federal version of the offense, presumably with the goal of making the law more likely to withstand legal challenge.

Another thing I noticed: The law recognizes a driver's license from another state as proof that one is not "an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States," but only if that state "requires proof of legal residence in the United States before issuance." According to this fairly recent summary, about half a dozen states don't. So Latino drivers from, say, Michigan could be in for a real hassle if they happen to be pulled over in Arizona, even if they are native-born U.S. citizens. Considering that a perfectly legal visitor from Mexico was nabbed by Arpaio's deputies and detained for almost nine hours even though he presented several forms of ID, including a valid visa, Latinos from states that don't meet Arizona's criteria probably should carry a passport. Or just avoid Arizona.

Finally, a correction: Last week I noted Linda Chavez's concern that Arizona's law requires all state and local government agencies to be on the lookout for unauthorized residents. She apparently was relying on an earlier version of the law, which ambiguously referred to "a law enforcement official or agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state." The version signed by Gov. Jan Brewer instead refers to "a law enforcement official or law enforcement agency."