There's A Reason The ACLU Issued A Travel Warning For Arizona: Non-resident Citizens Could Face Arrest There

[media id=17393] The ACLU raised all kinds of hackles the other day from defenders of Arizona's police-state immigration law, SB1070, when it issue

The ACLU raised all kinds of hackles the other day from defenders of Arizona's police-state immigration law, SB1070, when it issued a travel warning giving all out-of-state Latinos a heads up about the potential problems they face if they travel there:

The nation's top civil liberties group on Wednesday issued travel alerts for Arizona, saying the state's new law cracking down on illegal immigrants could lead to racial profiling and warrantless arrests.

American Civil Liberties Union affiliates in Arizona, New Mexico and 26 other states put out the warnings in advance of the Fourth of July weekend. The Arizona chapter has received reports that law enforcement officers are already targeting some people even though the law doesn't take effect until July 29, its executive director said.

The alerts are designed to teach people about their rights if police stop and question them.

The Arizona law requires police, while enforcing other laws, to question a person's immigration status if officers have a reasonable suspicion that the person is in the country illegally. It also makes it a state crime for legal immigrants to not carry their immigration documents and bans day laborers and people who seek their services from blocking traffic on streets.

Attorneys defending the law against constitutional challenges filed by the ACLU and others argue that the Legislature amended it to strengthen restrictions against using race as the basis for questioning by police. Five lawsuits are pending in federal court, and the U.S. Justice Department is believed to be preparing a legal challenge.

Despite the legislative action, the ACLU still believes that officers will inappropriately target minorities.

"We have a long history of racial profiling in this state, and this is basically going to really exacerbate that problem," said Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona.

The story has since been a hot topic at Fox News, where they've been searching up anybody who will say unkind things about the ACLU. Stuart Varney, filling in for Neil Cavuto on Your World on Fox yesterday, decided to ask Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona's 1st District about the advisory. And though Kirkpatrick opposes SB1070, she thinks the travel advisory is a "bad idea" -- just like the various boycotts of the state that erupted after the law was passed.

But Kirkpatrick doesn't explain why it's a bad idea, except to suggest that it will hurt innocent Arizonans (her same rationale for opposing the boycotts). What both she and Varney -- and for that matter, the Associated Press story -- neglected to explain to their audiences was that, if and when SB1070 is enacted, Latino American citizens who travel to Arizona will need to produce more than just their drivers licenses to prove their citizenship.

Radio host Mark Levine made this point clearly and succinctly to Laura Ingraham the other night when she was filling in on The O'Reilly Factor:

Levine: Certainly, a month from now, if this law goes into effect, all kinds of Latino American citizens may be in danger and I think what they're doing is they're telling people --

Ingraham: In danger?

Levine: Absolutely. Look, Laura, do you have --

Ingraham: How are they in danger? If they're legally in the United States, how are they in danger?

Levine: I'll explain. SB1070, the Arizona law, says if you're not carrying an Arizona drivers license, you can be stopped, and you can be arrested.

Ingraham: No profiling.

Levine: Let's say you're from New Mexico, or Utah, or Nevada, or any of the other fifteen states that don't require you to be a citizen in order to have a drivers license. I don't have an Arizona drivers license! Luckily for me, I don't look Latino, but if I go to Arizona without a drivers license, they can stop me.

You'll notice that Ingraham has no reply except to say that the law is popular anyway. (Yeah, we noticed that. So what?)

We explored this point in some depth previously:

Here's what the text of SB 1070 says:

A PERSON IS PRESUMED TO NOT BE AN ALIEN WHO IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES IF THE PERSON PROVIDES TO THE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER OR AGENCY ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

1. A VALID ARIZONA DRIVER LICENSE.

2. A VALID ARIZONA NONOPERATING IDENTIFICATION LICENSE.

3. A VALID TRIBAL ENROLLMENT CARD OR OTHER FORM OF TRIBAL IDENTIFICATION.

4. IF THE ENTITY REQUIRES PROOF OF LEGAL PRESENCE IN THE UNITED STATES BEFORE ISSUANCE, ANY VALID UNITED STATES FEDERAL, STATE OR LOCAL GOVERNMENT ISSUED IDENTIFICATION.

But as Stephen Lemon points out, this language is actually pretty startling: You will be presumed to be an illegal alien in Arizona unless you can produce one of these four kinds of ID.

Now, I haven't been able to find anything in Arizona code requiring citizens to carry one of these forms of ID with them at all times. But SB1070 certainly does create that requirement. As Lemons says:

If during any police investigation, a cop has "reasonable suspicion" to think you're in the country illegally, he or she can presume you're an undocumented alien unless you provide one of several forms of ID.

... Subsequently, even U.S. citizens could be held until someone from Immigration and Customs Enforcement is called to sort them out.

Keep in mind that a cop can stop someone and begin the process during the "enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state." That's so broad as to include weed abatement and barking dogs.

But this also raises a huge question: What if you're from another state? What if you're only carrying an out-of-state driver's license?

Many states refuse to require proof of citizenship when issuing driver's licenses: they wisely understand that it's more important to have people driving their roads with licenses and documentation than not, and requiring citizenship papers is a good way to discourage it.

So if someone -- say, a fourth-generation Latino citizen with an accent -- traveling through Arizona with a California or a Washington driver's license has the misfortune to be pulled over in a traffic stop -- or maybe just one of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's roadblocks -- and has the similar misfortune to arouse an officer's "reasonable suspicion" (say, he has a heavy accent or looks nervous), he could be hauled in and arrested under SB 1070, until someone back home can fax the birth certificate.

Levine somewhat misstates his case at the end: He can't be pulled over for looking Latino. But if he gets pulled over for a traffic infraction and all he has to show the officer is his California driver's license, he will be presumed to be an illegal alien and subject to arrest.

Pretty nasty state of affairs Arizona is cooking up in the desert.

About David Neiwert

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