Arizona Immigration Law Revised
Arizona has come under fire from many places, here included, for its new immigration law. Well, the legislature has responded:
The Arizona Legislature has narrowed a controversial immigration law in response to allegations that the measure legalized racial profiling and forced police to determine the immigration status of everyone they encountered on the streets.
The initial law, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer last week, required police to determine a person’s immigration status if officers formed a reasonable suspicion about their legality during any “lawful contact.” That led to suggestions by some legal experts that police would be obligated to scrutinize even people who asked for directions. A Phoenix police officer who patrols an area near a school sued, contending that it would require him to ask children he encounters during the day if they are in the country legally.
Lawmakers on Thursday night changed the language to require scrutiny only of people who police stop, detain or arrest. They also changed a section of the bill that barred officers from “solely” using race as grounds for suspecting someone is in the country illegally; opponents had argued that that would allow race to be a factor. The legislators removed the word “solely” to bar race from being used by officers enforcing the law.
“It absolutely clarifies what the intent was,” said Paul Senseman, a spokesman for Brewer, who supported the changes and is expected to sign them into law. “It’s undeniable now that this bill will not lead to racial profiling.”
Opponents of the bill, who to date have filed three federal lawsuits against it and promise more, said the changes would make little difference. “They’re nice cosmetic changes,” former state Sen. Alfredo Gutierrez said Friday during a news conference at which activists called for a boycott against Arizona and companies based in the state. “But they’re insufficient.”
Jonathan Adler follows the email trail and observes, “it appears these changes were in the works before the NYT published [bill co-author Kris] Kobach’s op-ed” defending the provisions he helped change. Of course, there’s frequently a sizable time gap between submission and publication but, still, odd.
I’ll wait to see the legal analysis that comes out over the next few days before making a final judgment but, on the surface at least, this would seem to answer most if not all of the objections that I had. I can’t come up with any strong argument against verifying a person’s legal identity and status while otherwise detaining them under existing rules.
Now, if this is used as a thin veil — that is, the detention is based on vague suspicion that some shabbily dressed Hispanic is an illegal — then I’d agree it hasn’t fixed anything.