Blog of Rights

Coalition Files Lawsuit Against Arizona's Racial Profiling Law

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 5:17pm

Arizona upended the basic tenets of a free society when its governor signed S.B. 1070, a law that requires police officers in that state to demand papers proving the citizenship or immigration status of people they stop if the officer has some undefined "reasonable suspicion" that they are not in this country legally. Under S.B. 1070, law enforcement will be forced to rely on people's appearance, victimizing citizens and noncitizens alike.

Today, the ACLU, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Immigration Law Center, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, ACLU of Arizona, National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice) filed a federal lawsuit against the state's sheriffs and county attorneys, asking the court to find S.B. 1070 unconstitutional. It violates the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law because it unlawfully invites the racial profiling of Latinos and other people who look or sound "foreign-born." It also violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution by interfering with the federal government's authority to regulate and enforce immigration. Our lawsuit is on behalf of a diverse coalition of Arizona residents and organizations including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Southside Presbyterian Church, the Asian Chamber of Commerce of Arizona, and the Muslim American Society.

In this video, Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arizona, explains why we're challenging the law, and the impact the law has already had on Arizona residents:

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It is practically impossible to think of any legitimate way police could develop a suspicion that someone is here unlawfully without racial profiling. Under this law, people who look "foreign" are more likely to be stopped for minor infractions like having a broken taillight, jaywalking or having an overgrown lawn — and then asked for their papers if police believe, just by looking at them, that they could be in the country unlawfully. That means that U.S. citizens and noncitizens alike will be required to carry papers on them at all times.

S.B. 1070 would essentially turn Arizona into a police state, where merely looking "foreign" authorizes the police to treat you as potential criminal suspect. Which is why many top law enforcement officials oppose this law. Time reports:

Chief John Harris of Sahuarita, the current president of the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, said he opposed the law before Governor Jan Brewer signed it and still does today. He listed his objections: Immigration has traditionally been a federal issue, and the police already have "manpower and budget issues" that will only get worse under the law. "[…] He's also concerned that victims may not report crimes to his officers.

Already, state governments across the country are considering laws similar to Arizona's. It's our hope that the lawsuit filed today will show that such laws will not pass constitutional muster in court, and passing more laws like it will be futile. S.B. 1070 is un-American and undermines our values of fairness and equality for all people. Stand with us, and show that what happens in Arizona stops in Arizona.

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