Summer vacations to the Grand Canyon will require a little extra preparation this year. Along with your camera and hot-weather gear, make sure to pack a copy of the ACLU's new know-your-rights card (PDF), advising you of your rights if stopped by law enforcement or immigration authorities. The recent passage of Arizona's racial profiling law, S.B. 1070, has created an environment of extreme uncertainty where police encounters and civil rights are concerned.
That's why the ACLU affiliates around the country are issuing a public "travel alert" today, advising people how to respond to traffic stops and avoid unfortunate encounters with Arizona law enforcement. Even though the law won't go into effect until the end of July, Arizona's history of racial profiling and the wild-frontier antics of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arapaio give reason to believe that at least some state or local police officers will feel emboldened to act on the law before its time. The ACLU wants you to be prepared for such circumstances — especially this weekend, as the summer travel season hits its stride.
The residents of our state, New Mexico, have especially good cause to heed the travel alert's advice. Not only do we share a border with Arizona, but our population is as diverse as any state in the country. New Mexicans are as likely as anyone to be stopped in some officer's errant attempt to check immigration status.
What's more, the New Mexico driver's license doesn't qualify as adequate proof of legal residence under the Arizona law. If the law goes into effect, unless you have a passport or some other government-issued ID aside from a New Mexico driver's license, there's a good chance that unwarranted stops of New Mexicans can evolve into unwarranted arrests.
In their zeal to purge immigrant families from their state, Arizona lawmakers have forfeited liberties that are the hallmark of freedom in the rest of America. Travel to Arizona could now become like a trip to a foreign country, and the state's official motto may one day change from "God enriches" to "Show me your papers."
For those reasons, it's critical that what happens in Arizona stops in Arizona.