ACLU of Arizona Disappointed with Senate Panel's Passage of Immigration Enforcement Bill, Calls Bill Overreaching and Misguided

Affiliate: ACLU of Arizona
January 20, 2010 12:00 am

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PHOENIX – The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona today expressed disappointment with the passage of legislation in a Senate committee that, among other things, forces local municipalities and police departments to prioritize civil immigration enforcement over their other public safety responsibilities and makes any non-citizen who has entered the United States without permission guilty of the additional state crime of trespassing. The measure was approved 4-3 despite objections from the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police and the Arizona Farm Bureau.

“This bill goes beyond just enlisting the help of local police agencies to enforce immigration laws,” said ACLU of Arizona Alessandra Soler Meetze, who testified against SB 1070 at today’s hearing before the Senate Public Safety and Human Services Committee. “It severely ties the hands of cities and counties by mandating that their officers arrest people for immigration violations without federal training or constitutional safeguards.

“Aside from being arguably unlawful, such a policy is particularly harmful at a time when Arizona’s local governments are already making difficult choices about how to allocate their limited resources to arrest and detain violent offenders who pose serious threats to public safety.”

As the Goldwater Institute found last year, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s efforts to prioritize immigration enforcement have greatly compromised response times for violent crimes.

The ACLU said that it knows of no other state or town in the country that has passed a statute specifically enumerating unlawful presence as a state crime. A similar attempt to give local police additional powers using a trespassing statute in 2005 in New Hampshire was found to violate the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution gives the federal government exclusive power to regulate the nation’s borders. SB 1070 goes even further and purports to give local law enforcement the authority to arrest and transport suspected undocumented immigrants into federal custody without even the minimum due process provided by federal law.

“If passed, this bill would be found by the courts to be an even more direct attempt to regulate immigration and, therefore, preempted by federal law,” added Meetze. “The legislation would also lead to the unjustified detention of many citizens and legal residents and encourage law enforcement to place a discriminatory focus of their investigations on Latino residents. This would expose municipalities to additional civil litigation.”

Finally, the ACLU noted the significant up front fiscal costs that would be incurred by local police associated with training officers and transporting and incarcerating non-criminal, immigration violators. For example, the Board of Supervisors for Prince William County in Virginia passed a similar immigration law, but the Board eventually delayed implementation of law when it learned from the police chief that the local law enforcement portion of measure would cost $14.2 million over five yrs to implement.

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