As 'Show Me Your Papers' Becomes Law, Both Sides Prepare
A recent federal court ruling means the final blocked section of Arizona’s immigration law could take effect any day now.
Civil rights advocates are still trying to block the section, but both law enforcement and immigrant advocates are preparing for possible implementation.
It is known as Section 2(b), or the ‘show me your papers’ provision. It requires police to check immigration status if they have a reasonable suspicion people they have stopped or arrested for other reasons are in the country illegally.
It’s been called the heart of the controversial law, but what, if anything, will it mean when police begin enforcing it?
Police throughout the state are saying that little will change. After all, officers have always been able to inquire abut immigration status, this law just requires them to check when they have a reasonable suspicion and it is practical to do so.
But there are new guidelines for law enforcement to learn, and they’ve been told they are being watched to make sure they implement the law correctly.
There was a training video police were required to watch, back when SB 1070 was originally passed in 2010. They’re watching it again now, in preparation for the implementation of the last blocked section.
In one chapter of the video, Jimmy Chavez of Arizona Department of Public Safety discusses the biggest potential violation of the law: racial profiling. What officers can and cannot do when enforcing 2(b).
“How should officers approach the issue of racial profiling?” the anchor in the video asks Chavez.
“I think if officers continue to do the job to do the professional job that they’re hired to do, I don’t think racial profiling will be an issue,” Chavez responds. “We’re taught early on to take the totality of the circumstances during an investigation and if officers continue to remember that and continue to hold to that, racial profiling should not be an issue.”
Hipolito Acosta is a former federal immigration agent who was a consultant to this training video and worked with Arizona to train police on how to enforce SB 1070. He said he doesn’t think 2(b)’s implementation would cause more racial profiling.
“The concern that I would have you stop the vehicle and you concentrate on the driver, you start questioning all the individuals in the vehicle and they are legal in the country,” Acosta said. “Would you do that if [they] were not Hispanic? That’s a concern that I would have.”
In other words, expanding the suspicion and the request for papers beyond the person the police pulled over. Not a clear answer; but a concern for many since SB 1070 was first signed into law.
And that’s not the only pending question.
“They want to know 'can they ask my passengers for IDs?'” Guzman said. “That is a very common question they are asking. Or if the police come to my house if I have a dispute with my neighbor. I just got a few of those.”
The answer to those particular questions?
Passengers in a car aren’t required to show identification under this law. And police must be investigating some other crime or infraction before they ask a suspect about immigration status -- which possibly could happen at a home. Legal analysts say that police should not be asking victims or witnesses they interview about immigration status.
One thing the U.S. Supreme Court did make clear in June when it said Section 2(b) could go forward is that when police check immigration status, it shouldn’t lead to a prolonged detention. But even that has left some legal experts wondering.
“Of course the question is, how long is unreasonable, is it ten minutes, is it an hour, is it all day?” said Phoenix Law School professor Steven Gonzales.
Paul Bender, a law professor at Arizona State University, said it remains to be seen exactly how law officers will be able to legally develop a reasonable suspicion that someone they stop is in the country illegally.
Officers are expressly prohibited from taking race or ancestry into account, but Bender is skeptical about whether it is possible to truly ignore those factors.
“How in the world do you make a decision about somebody, and you say to yourself, is that person here illegally?” Bender said.
Gonzales said just because this section is likely to take effect imminently, doesn’t mean the debate over it is close to being resolved.
“There will probably be challenges that on a case-by-case basis that someone was treated in an unconstitutional manner,” Gonzales said.
Back at the hotline, Guzman has those future challenges in mind, which the U.S. Supreme Court indicated could be brought once this provision takes effect.
“And so they left the door open for us to collect cases so that we could go back into court, and show that the police are misapplying the laws and people’s civil rights are going to be violated,” Guzman said.
She is telling U.S. citizens who are stopped to record how long they were detained, whether they were asked about legal status, and to report what happened to the hotline.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Updated 9/17/2012 at 4:17 p.m.