Immigration

Supreme Court's Immigration Decision Unlikely to Ease Immigrants' Concerns

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Who doesn't like a chat with the cops under the hot sun?

When people in my piece of Arizona fret about Arizona's SB 1070 — the immigration law trimmed to fit by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Arizona v. United States (PDF) — the issue that comes up most often is fear of being pulled over and questioned by the police. It's not that the other provisions aren't important, but immigrants mostly encounter the law in the form of flashing blue and red lights in the rearview mirror and awkward conversations by the side of the road. The Supreme Court struck down several of the law's provisions, but left intact the requirement that police officers inquire into immigration status. It's hard to see the climate for immigrants changing much in Arizona with the prospect of police stops and status checks left in place.

Again, the Supreme Court struck down important provisions of the law. Section 3 had criminalized failure to comply with alien-registration requirements, on the grounds that the law "intrudes on the field of alien registration, a field in which Congress has left no room for States to regulate." Section 5(c) made it a misdemeanor for illegal immigrants to look for or perform work in Arizona — a step too far, said the court, because "Congress decided it would be inappropriate to impose criminal penalties on unauthorized employees. It follows that a state law to the contrary is an obstacle to the regulatory system Congress chose." And Section 6 let Arizona cops arrest anybody "the officer has probable cause to believe … has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States" — again overextending state authority because "As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain in the United States" and it's the federal government's prerogative to make such an offense arrestable or not arrestable.

But that leads those much feared ad hoc immigration-status interrogations by the police, based in Section 2(b), which reads:

For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of this state or a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of a county, city, town or other politicial subdivision of this state where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person, except if the determination may hinder or obstruct an investigation. Any person who is arrested shall have the person's immigration status determined before the person is released.

The Supreme Court's majority ruled that this section of the law should stand, at least for now, because "[i]t was improper to enjoin §2(B) before the state courts had anopportunity to construe it and without some showing that §2(B)'s enforcement in fact conflicts with federal immigration law and its objectives." The provision may be open to further litigation depending on how it's applied, but the majority saw no inherent conflict with federal law.

But "lawful contact" is, of course, a wide-open standard in an age when even a casual drive can turn into an opportunity to say hello to your local law-enforcement officers who have access to a host of rules and regulations providing opportunities for "pretext stops." As the Corvallis Gazette-Times reported five years ago, "civil rights advocates argue that problems can arise because police have such wide latitude in enforcing traffic laws that, if they really want to, they can pull virtually anyone over at any time."

In Maricopa County, in particular, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies have been so enthusiastic in their efforts to root out anybody who might be in the country illegally, that they got tagged by the U.S. Department of Justice for taking racial profiling into bold new ground.

I've written before that Maricopa County has become a no-go zone for many of my wife's patients, legal or illegal, who so fear a police encounter that they forego opportunities to take their children to medical specialists in the Phoenix area. With the National Immigration Forum warning that the "Supreme Court upholds pointy end of the sword of Arizona's immigration law," and with Governor Jan Brewer, a booster of the law, calling the decision a victory, there's no reason to believe those fears will disappear any time soon.

NEXT: Supreme Court Rules Mandatory Life Without Parole Sentences for Juveniles Convicted of Capital Offenses a "Cruel and Unusual Punishment"; Chief Justice Focuses on Lack of "National Consensus" in Dissent

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    1. Love the Elvis impersonator doing the intro yelling. Awesome suit. And badass guitar cape.

    2. Fuck me, I can’t believe I didn’t watch the whole thing before commenting. They have a towel-boy… That has got to be the only band with a towel boy… New fan.

  1. I’ve written before that Maricopa County has become a no-go zone for many of my wife’s patients, legal or illegal, who so fear a police encounter that they forego opportunities to take their children to medical specialists in the Phoenix area.

    If you are a legal immigrant, just carry your visa. I find it difficult to believe that legal immigrants are too worried about this. If they were, why wouldn’t citizens be just as worried about being policed up? I doubt the average citizen carries their passport around or any more identification than legal immigrants.

    I am calling bullshit on that little urban myth.

    1. Do you really think that the cops aren’t dicks even to legal immigrants?

      Besides, who wants to get pulled over all the time and explain themselves, just because they’re brown?

      1. They are dicks to everyone. And you really think there are not tons of citizens in Arizona who are of Mexican dissent? How do you tell the citizens from the noncitizens? You can’t. And that is why I don’t buy for a minute they are policing up legal immigrants. If they were, they would be policing up citizens who looked like Mexicans as well. And that isn’t happening. It is just Reason pearl clutching.

        1. And that is why I don’t buy for a minute they are policing up legal immigrants.

          His words were “fear a police encounter” not “fear being deported”.

          I read that as they don’t want to be pulled over every ten miles and have to explain themselves.

          1. Once again. The cops are dicks. I got that. But they are dicks to everyone. The problem is that cops are dicks and that has nothing to do with immigration. You can’t tell the immigrants from the citizens in many cases. If the place were a no go zone for legal immigrants, citizens would be afraid to go there as well. And I see no reports of citizens being afraid to go there.

            1. You can’t tell the immigrants from the citizens in many cases.

              If Spanish is obviously your first language, and your English skills are poor to non-existent, then the cop is going to be an extradick.

              citizens would be afraid to go there as well

              Not if English is obviously their first language.

              1. If you can’t speak English it is unlikely you are a legal resident. Beyond which, it is called a VISA. So me cases where the Arizona cops are arresting people even after they produce their green cards. if that is not happening, then it is not a no go area for legal immigrants.

                1. If you can’t speak English it is unlikely you are a legal resident.

                  I can tell you’ve never worked with Mexicans. Even the legal ones stay in tight communities where they can get away with learning an absolute minimum of English. Their kids often enter the public school system not knowing a word.

                  You seriously do not know what you are talking about.

            2. All he is saying is that it gives cops one MORE reason to be dicks. Based on the fact that virtually 1 in 4 of the absurd “isolated incidents” occur under America’s favorite sheriff, there stands good reason for anyone to stay out of Maricopa counta. Especially brown people since most of the Maricopa sheriffs department is dedicated to immigration crackdown.

              1. By 1 in 4 I mean 1 in 4 that are written about here on Reason. Of course 25% of the “isolated incidents” don’t occur there. But it is 1 of 2 counties (Along with LA) that have the highest rate of police misconduct and abuse.

                1. the issue isn’t do the narrator’s acquaintances have these fears?

                  the issue is: are the fears REASONABLE?

                  1. the issue is: are the fears REASONABLE?

                    If your skin is brown and you only speak Spanish, then, regardless of your immigration status, YES IT IS PERFECTLY FUCKING REASONABLE to fear extra attention and even harassment from the police in Maricopa County.

                2. based on what metric?

        2. When I worked in Phoenix in the late 80s and early 90s, the police scared me. It was a contributing factor in my decision to bail-out and scurry back to Iowa.

          One of our techs came into work one Monday morning with a broken nose and most of his face black and blue. He was a US citizen, born and raised, but he was stopped for driving while mexican. He didn’t show the proper respect and his face met the top of his car.

          How does a US citizen who only has a driver’s license (like 99% of the population) prove to a policeman that he is actually a citizen?

      2. The cops are also dicks to the very middle-class white American-born native-English-speaking males who are supposed to have it so easy, all the time. If anything the cops might feel freer to take little dickish liberties just because they know that the middle-class white male is probably just going to want to go home, and doesn’t have any attention-hound advocacy group to call.

        1. Middle-class Young White Guys are the bread and butter of police sustainability. They know the white guys have the money to pay the tickets, will only have to pull them over for 30 seconds to 2 minutes and can meet all of their quotas easy-peazy…

          1. reason logic:

            the vast majority of citizens have encounters with police (traffic stops etc.)

            poll after poll shows overwhelming respect and admiration of the cops by people

            and yet, according to reason “logic”, the cops are routinely dickish to one and all

            IF that were true, polling data wouldn’t overwhelmingly, year after year, show high levels of respect by “citizens” towards cops and consistently rank them amongst the top professions (way ahead of journalists and lawyers) in terms of respect due, etc.

            these are facts, not opinions

            IF cops were as dickish as the few trolls here claim, they would not routinely rank amongst the most admired and respected of professions.

            i was pulled over at gunpoint in college, but i was treated respectfully.

            the only time i was treated disrespectfully was… when i was an asshole.

            shocking how that works

      3. The bill does not, and never did, give any ability to racially profile or pull people over “just because they’re brown.”
        That is BULLSHIT.

        The law actually went so far as to expand the current rules against racial profiling and point out, rather unnecessarily, that the police could not do so.
        So again, um, bullshit.

    2. John,

      I’ve had cops “lose” my proof of insurance on a traffic stop.

      Replacing passports and visa certificates is a pain in the ass that can be dangerous (what if they decide not to issue you a new one?).

      Personally, I don’t want to hand the cops my passport… ever…

      I recognize that there will be times it is unavoidable, but take steps to minimize it.

      Arizona was already a no-go zone for me, so this ruling doesn’t change much.

      1. Show me a cases where Arizona is deporting citizens in large numbers. Unless you can show me that, you are don’t have a point. It is most certainly a no go for illegals. But if it were a no go for legal immigrants, it would be a no go area for citizens as well. And clearly it is not.

        1. John, *I’m* a citizen, and Arizona is a no go zone for me.

          I’m not interested in going someplace that has an unusually large number of excuses for “you can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride”.

          1. Good for you Taran. But so fucking what? Again, plenty of other citizens go there. So the point still stands.

            1. But so fucking what?

              I answered your questions? Presumably you asked them hoping people would answer them?

              I find it difficult to believe that legal immigrants are too worried about this. If they were, why wouldn’t citizens be just as worried about being policed up? I doubt the average citizen carries their passport around or any more identification than legal immigrants.

              I explained why *I* am worried about it, and I doubt I am alone:

              Replacing passports and visa certificates is a pain in the ass that can be dangerous (what if they decide not to issue you a new one?).

              Personally, I don’t want to hand the cops my passport… ever…

              To which you replied (moving the goal-posts nicely, I might add):

              Unless you can show me that, you are don’t have a point. It is most certainly a no go for illegals. But if it were a no go for legal immigrants, it would be a no go area for citizens as well. And clearly it is not.

              As Sarcasmic pointed out, it’s not deportation that’s the problem. It’s having one more excuse for the cops to harass you. And, if it’s having a chilling effect on me merely because I was born in Istanbul, it’s definitely having a chilling effect on other people who have similar red-flags in their paper-work.

              You can continue denying that it’s a problem. We’ve led you to the water. Whether you drink or not is up to you.

          2. nobody denies you have this fear of maricopa county/arizona

            the issue is : is the fear UNreasonable. i have relatives there and spend a lot of time there.

            it may amaze you that i even have ‘brown’ friends there, and i’m a minority myself.

            people *in* arizona are going about their business, w/o this IRrational fear.

            most of the fear of arizona, etc comes from people outside arizona, such as yourself, who assume they know how the situation is, vs. those who ACTUALLY live there.

            again, nobody doubts you have this fear. the issue is: is the fear reasonable, iow based on data, facts, etc.

            there are a hell of a lot of people in arizona/maricopa county who “look mexican” and they are going about their day to day lives w/o these irrational fears.

        2. John, *I’m* a citizen, and Arizona is a no go zone for me.

          I’m not interested in going someplace that has an unusually large number of excuses for “you can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride”.

  2. So just in case you forgot… TEAM RED sucks too.

  3. I haven’t read the decision. How does the Court deal with the fact that the states have lots of laws on the books that criminalize things that the feds also “regulate”?

    Take, oh, I dunno, laws against marijuana. The feds have occupied that field, have they not? Do they specifically authorize the states to also pass laws against marijuana? Maybe so, I dunno, but I’m sure there are plenty of examples of the feds and the states both outlawing something, where the feds have not specifically authorized state action.

    1. All drug laws are that way. Also, states are free to pass stricter environmental laws.

      1. It used to be that state laws were allowed as long as they didn’t conflict with federal law. I haven’t read this decision yet, but this:

        “Congress decided it would be inappropriate to impose criminal penalties on unauthorized employees. It follows that a state law to the contrary is an obstacle to the regulatory system Congress chose.”

        strikes me as, well, kind of weird. It seems to be saying that a state isn’t allowed to impose stricter penalties than the feds on something they both regulate. Stricter penalties for the same offense has never been considered a “conflict” with federal law. So this looks new to me. And, predictably, another turn of the ratchet eroding state sovereignty and expanding federal power.

    2. Hey, maybe they didn’t, so that there is grounds to have all the state drug laws struck down for conflicting with CSA.

  4. Heh….A few decades ago I was stopped by the border patrol while leaving the Keys. The yankee dolt was holding my driver’s license in his hand when he asked me if I had any other proof of citizenship. I answered ” Its my accent that makes you suspicious isnt it?”. Yes, I have a pronounced southern drawl.

    Another agent nearby overheard and cracked up. The one who had asked me just gave me a cold stare and handed my license back.

    That was my only contact with the BP. I am sure they just wanted to search everyone leaving the keys for drugs.

    1. Your drivers’ license should be proof enough of legal residency. That is until the get the US out of North America types decided to give those to illegals.

      1. I can leave my house any day of the week to walk, jog, ride a bike or lots of other activities without any requirement to carry identifiction of any kind let alone a state issued driver’s license.

        Arizona’s law will put anyone that remotely looks or sounds hispanic in a different class of people that always need to have the ability to prove they are citizens.

        1. Guilty until proven innocent.

        2. Louisiana, and I am sure other states, requires that everyone have id in their possession.

          1. Thanks for the info. Another state I can strike from the destination list.

            1. please cite the law in LA thqat says everyone must have ID in their possession

              note that “stop and ID ” laws do not require you have id in your possession

              they require that IF you are stopped (terry, traffic stop, etc.) AND you HAVE id in your possession, that you must present it. those are not the same thing

              note that WA where i work has no such law

              many states do

              again, if you can cite a law saying that everybody (let’s say of majority age) in LA must have ID in their possession, i’ll defer to your wisdom

              but i have never heard of such a law, and i strongly doubt it. not saying it’s not the case, but i strongly doubt it

              since, again, i have seen plenty of stop and ID laws and NONE require a person to have id in their possession

              1. INA ?264(e), 8 U.S.C. ? 1304(e)

                Permanent residents of the United States eighteen years of age or older must carry their valid physical green card itself at all times. Failing to do so would be a violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act, carrying the possibility of a fine up to $100 and/or imprisonment for up to 30 days for each offense.

        3. except we can contrast your pearl clutching and claims of what WILL happen vs. what DOES happen

          in this thread, reasonoids sound EXACTLY like anti-gun rights people clutching at “oh my god there will be bloodz in the street” if concealed carry is passed, and then ignoring the evidence to the contrary.

          i have relatively in maricopa county and spend a lot of time there. a substantial # of people, heck a substantial # of cops, “look hispanic” (realizing that hispanic is used for “mexican” even though it has nothing to do with race, but has to do with language/culture), and people actually IN ARIZONA, to a large extent don’t have this irrational fear.

          again, evidence trumps “but what will happen if”

          it’s true with gunz, and it’s true with az laws

          1. oh btw, and both my relatives in maricopa county are retired cops and hate arpaio. they were asked to be on his “posse” but declined. they, correctly imo, think he is a grandstanding fool and a detriment to law enforcement

    2. I got stopped by a roadblock on the Turnpike near Bangor one day. BP asked if anyone in the car was from Canada, I said “No”, and we drove away.

  5. lol, OK that makes a lot of sense dude.

    http://www.Dot-Anon.tk

  6. How times have NOT changed. I recall taking the Greyhound bus home from San Diego, when the BP would come onboard and check the licenses of everyone with brown skin. No one who looked gringo was ever checked. Not even pale skinned Canadians.

  7. Part of the reason people are so upset by this law is shoddy reporting like this.
    “the requirement that police officers inquire into immigration status.”
    There is no REQUIREMENT. It gives police the ABILITY to check citizenship, and then ONLY if they have already come into contact with the suspect legally for a valid law enforcement reason, and only if they have reasonable suspicion that the suspect might be in the country illegally. And no, racial profiling cannot be used as a reason to have reasonable suspicion (although let’s face it, it should be).

    1. Have you actually read the law in question?

      It is a requirement. If a locality or officer does not inquire into immigration status to the satisfaction of someone, that someone can sue the locality or officer for malfeasance in the face of this law.

      Essentially the State of Arizona has decided that neither the US government above it nor localities within it are competent to decide when to pursue suspected illegal immigrants. How nice of the State of Arizona.

      I haven’t looked into this enough to know whether that obnoxious provision was part of what was overturned. Anyone know?

      1. After reading the decision, it is pretty clear that Section 2 of the law is entirely upheld, from 2(B) — requiring determining immigration status if there is any suspicion it may be illegal — to 2(H) — empowering residents to sue for failure to execute 2(B).

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