The trouble with Arizona

By Ronal Madnick, Director
Worcester County Chapter
ACLU of Massachusetts

A law, SB1070, passed in Arizona makes the rampant racial profiling of Latinos that is already going on in Arizona much worse. If this law were implemented, citizens would effectively have to carry ‘their papers’ at all times to avoid arrest. It is a low point in modern America when a state law requires police to demand documents from people on the street.

This unconstitutional law sends a strong message to all immigrants to have no contact with any law enforcement officer. The inevitable result is not only to make immigrants more vulnerable to crime and exploitation, but also to make the entire community less safe, by aggressively discouraging witnesses and victims from reporting crimes. It violates the supremacy clause by interfering with federal immigration power and authority. The law also unlawfully invites racial profiling against Latinos and other people of color.

There is a good reason why police officers should not act as immigration officials. In Worcester the Worcester Police Chief and the Worcester Police Department understand like most of the police chiefs of the largest cities in the United State who have built up good relationships with minority communities that if they act as immigration officials minorities will be less likely to report crime and make law enforcement more difficult.

Police chiefs around the country know that local agencies have worked very hard to build trust and a spirit of cooperation with immigrant groups through community based policing and outreach programs and specialized officers who work with immigrant groups. Local agencies have a clear need to foster trust and cooperation with everyone in these immigrant communities. Assistance and cooperation from immigrant communities is especially important when an immigrant, whether documented or undocumented, is the victim of or witness to a crime. These persons must be encouraged to file reports and come forward with information. Their cooperation is needed to prevent and solve crimes and maintain public order, safety, and security in the whole community.

If the undocumented immigrant’s primary concern is that they will be deported or subjected to an immigration status investigation, then they will not come forward and provide needed assistance and cooperation. Distrust and fear of contacting or assisting the police would develop among legal immigrants as well. Undoubtedly legal immigrants would avoid contact with the police for fear that they themselves or undocumented family members or friends may become subject to immigration enforcement. Without assurances that contact with the police would not result in purely civil immigration enforcement action, the hard won trust, communication and cooperation from the immigrant community would disappear. Such a divide between the local police and immigrant groups would result in increased crime against immigrants and in the broader community,

A federal judge in Arizona has ruled in a class action lawsuit charging that a sheriff illegally profiled Latinos can proceed. The judge recognized that Latino appearance is of “little or no use” in determining which individuals should be stopped by law enforcement seeking “illegal aliens,” and that reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation does not justify questioning of drivers or passengers about immigration status.

. Law enforcement practices that target a group based solely on the color of their skin have no place in America

This issue is not about immigration. It’s about American citizens being subjected to cross-examination based on skin color. Questioned for the way they look and the color of their skin

This extreme law puts Arizona completely out of step with American values of fairness and equality.

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