Welcome to Arizona! Latinos, Please Have Your Passports Ready

I’ve got good news for Democrats in my adopted state. The Arizona governor signed SB 1070 into law and Oklahoma no longer has the distinction of having the nation’s stupidest toughest anti-immigration law. Arizona’s Draconian measures beat ours hands down. We no longer live in the most anti-Mexican state in the Union!

Check out the enforcement mechanism that the Arizona law contains. It “requires a reasonable attempt to be made to determine the immigration status of a person during any legitimate contact made by an official or agency of the state or a county, city, town or political subdivision (political subdivision) if reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the U.S.” (http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/2r/summary/s.1070pshs.doc.htm).

You’ve got to love the phrase “reasonable suspicion.” What on earth does that mean? The Arizona governor has issued an executive order mandating guidelines to prevent racial profiling. I can’t wait to see what they are. How do you avoid racial profiling if all you need is “reasonable suspicion?”

The law specifically states that Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) may not solely consider race, color or national origin (http://hotair.com/archives/2010/04/24/correction-the-actual-arizona-immigration-bill/). Unfortunately, the law doesn’t require a “preponderance of evidence” or “probable cause.” Thus it actually allows for the possibility for a LEO to add just one other factor. For example, a LEO could use color (“Here’s a brown-skinned person with black hair and dark-brown eyes”) and language proficiency or lack thereof (“They speak very broken English”) to stop somebody and demand proof of citizenship. Or the LEO could take color and geographic location (“They were in a location known to be frequented by illegal immigrants”) to be the basis for an enforcement action. After all, two factors are all that is needed for “reasonable suspicion” to not be solely based on race, color or national origin.

Most supporters of this new Arizona law are quick to point out that they are champions of the rule of law. I’m guessing that also means that they support the U.S. Constitution. Last time I checked, the 4th Amendment read as follows: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The standard of probable cause requires that an arresting officer needs to have something more substantial than “Looking and Sounding Mexican” or “Looking Mexican in a Bad Neighborhood” as the basis for the arrest. Unfortunately for the millions of Latinos that are hard-working, law-abiding citizens, in Arizona the 4th Amendment is being taken as the 4th Suggestion. They don’t need probable cause any more, they only need reasonable suspicion to ask you to produce proof of citizenship.

My advice to Latinos who have to live, work, or travel in Arizona is to carry your papers at all times. A U.S. Passport is the best; after all, you can fill out an I-9 with just that one document. If all you have is a driver’s license and a notarized birth certificate, then you’ll just have to hope that your birth certificate is accepted as a real one.

After all, Arizona State House representatives have recently passed a controversial ‘birther bill’ that would require any United States presidential candidates to be able to prove that they were actually born in the country as is required by the Constitution. It’s not law yet, but the motivation for the bill is the widespread belief among Republicans that our President doesn’t have a legitimate birth certificate. That would make him an illegal alien, wouldn’t it?

If Barack Obama would have trouble proving  to the satisfaction of Republicans in Arizona that he’s a citizen of the U.S. using only his driver’s license and his birth certificate, ordinary Latinos have no chance. If you haven’t already, get your passports now!


One Response to “Welcome to Arizona! Latinos, Please Have Your Passports Ready”

  1. Maria Says:

    Could you imagine being a tourist and forgetting your passport at the hotel? Or having your passport and the less than wise police not understanding the types of visa needed to enter the US, if there is one required at all?

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