Friday, April 23, 2010

Ihre Papiere, Bitte!

Arizona's Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed a bill allowing police to stop people whom they have reasonable suspicion of being in the country illegally, demand proof of citizenship on the spot, and arrest them for a criminal act... at the state level. Here's Huffpo's Paul Davenport and Jonathan J. Cooper with this summary:
The legislation, sent to the Republican governor by the GOP-led Legislature, makes it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally. It also requires local police officers to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are illegal immigrants, allows lawsuits against government agencies that hinder enforcement of immigration laws, and make it illegal to hire illegal immigrants for day labor or knowingly transport them.
Well, that's interesting. Gov. Brewer, how recently are your people "off the boat"? A long time ago? Can you prove it? Do you carry papers with you everywhere to prove it? Oh, I forgot, you're white; no one will stop you on suspicion of being an alien...

I don't know the consequences of this law... perhaps none, because it is surely unconstitutional, and even if not, the ridicule thrown at the Governor will soon become unbearable to her... but I do know that if truly implemented, this law will cause civil unrest. And justly so.


  1. If the law says "reasonable suspicion" and not "had probable cause to believe" it is a no-go on its face. You can arrest on probably cause, but you can only stop and talk on reasonable suspicion.

    Those are the rules, and the Supreme Court has about a century and a half of precedents on this.

    Probable cause requires some indication of illegal activity before the stop.

    Note that being an undocumented alien is a civil, not a criminal offense, so it is not a "crime". That is why it takes enabling legislation for law enforcement below the Federal level to do anything about it, beyond notifying Federal officers of the situation.

    They have stepped into a mess and made bigots of the state.

  2. Bryan, Gov. Brewer's statement that she wouldn't tolerate racial profiling is IMHO a superb indication that she not only intends racial profiling but is counting on it, and her statement is a coded message to her base, "go ahead, we won't stop you."

    If the real object of the law were to reduce drug trafficking across the border, forcing local law enforcement to threaten not only the residency but the criminal status of American citizens who happen to be Hispanic is about the worst thing the law could do. No, this is raw bigotry, (im)pure and simple, at work.

    As for "reasonable suspicion" vs. "probable cause," if even the might FBI doesn't have to bother with search warrants these days, why should a mere Governor care about such constitutional rights?

  3. "might" -> "mighty" ... this laptop keyboard leaves a lot to be desired.



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