As Holiday Weekend Approaches, ACLU of Tennessee Issues Alert To State Residents Traveling To Arizona

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
June 30, 2010 12:00 am

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New Tennessee Law Follows Arizona’s Shameful Lead, ACLU-TN Provides “Know Your Rights” Materials to Tennesseans


NASHVILLE – In response to civil liberties threats caused by the recent passage of Arizona’s racial profiling law, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN) issued a travel alert today informing Tennessee residents of their rights when stopped by law enforcement while traveling in Arizona. Arizona’s unconstitutional law requires law enforcement agents to demand “papers” from people they stop who they suspect are not authorized to be in the U.S. If individuals are unable to prove to officers that they are permitted to be in the U.S., they may be subject to warrantless arrest without any probable cause that they have committed a crime.

Similarly, a new law in Tennessee effectively requires individuals who could be perceived as foreign-born to carry immigration documentation at all times so that they can prove they are in the country legally in case they are arrested. Sheriffs are required to send booking information to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for all people who cannot prove their legal status. The Tennessee law differs from Arizona’s in that it requires an arrest before immigration status is checked. However ACLU-TN is concerned that with the passage of this new law, law enforcement in Tennessee will be more likely to arrest an individual for a minor infraction, rather than to issue a citation, in order to trigger an immigration investigation. Tennessee lawmakers have also expressed an interest in passing legislation next year that more closely mirrors the Arizona law.

“Unfortunately, these new laws put Tennesseans at risk of racial profiling and unlawful detention,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN Executive Director. “ACLU-TN is issuing this travel advisory, as well as other materials, to ensure that Tennesseans know their rights, whether within Tennessee or while traveling.”

Although the Arizona law is not scheduled to go into effect until July 29, ACLU-TN is concerned that some law enforcement officers are already beginning to act on provisions of the law. Moreover, there has been a history of rampant racial profiling by law enforcement in Arizona, especially in Maricopa County, as well as a stated anti-immigrant policy of “attrition through enforcement” by Arizona lawmakers meant to create a hostile enough environment for Latinos and other people of color that they voluntarily leave the state. The Tennessee law goes into effect on January 1, 2011.

In addition to the travel alert, the ACLU has made available in English and Spanish materials on individuals’ rights if stopped by law enforcement. The materials include a downloadable card with instructions – applicable in any state – on coping with vehicle stops and questioning by police, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents or the FBI, as well as a Frequently Asked Questions document about the Arizona law.

“Tennesseans should be aware that under these new laws, anyone who appears to be ‘foreign’ and whom law enforcement suspects could be in the country unlawfully is at greater risk of being detained or arrested for a minor infraction and being asked to show his or her ‘papers,'” Weinberg said. “ACLU-TN’s ‘Know Your Rights’ card can help people prepare for such encounters.”

The ACLU and other leading civil rights organizations filed a lawsuit challenging the Arizona law in May, but until the law is struck down, the ACLU warns that individuals traveling in Arizona must be aware of their rights if stopped there.

The travel alert and other materials are available at:

Materials informing individuals of their rights when stopped by law enforcement optimized for mobile devices is available at:

Materials informing individuals of their rights when stopped by law enforcement and more information about the Arizona law, including an ACLU video and slide show, can be found at:

More information about the ACLU’s lawsuit, including information on co-counsel and plaintiffs, can be found at:

More information about the ACLU of Tennessee’s work on racial profiling can be found at:

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