Revision to Arizona Law Sets Conditions for Questions by the Police

New York Times
30 April 2010

Phoenix (AP)—Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday signed a follow-on bill approved by Arizona legislators that makes revisions to the state’s sweeping law against illegal immigration. She said the changes should quell concerns that the measure will lead to racial profiling.

The law requires local and state law enforcement officers to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are in the country illegally, and it makes it a state crime to be in the United States illegally.

Governor Brewer said the changes should lay to rest concerns of opponents.

“These new statements make it crystal clear and undeniable that racial profiling is illegal, and will not be tolerated in Arizona,” she said in a statement.

The changes include one strengthening restrictions against using race or ethnicity as the basis for questioning by the police and inserting those same restrictions in other parts of the law. Another change states that questions of immigration status would follow a law enforcement officer’s stopping, detaining or arresting a person while enforcing another law. The earlier law had referred to a “contact” with police.

Another change specifies that possible violations of local civil ordinances can trigger questioning on immigration status.

Stephen Montoya, a Phoenix lawyer representing a police officer whose lawsuit was one of three filed Thursday to challenge the law, said the changes would not derail the lawsuit because the state is still unconstitutionally trying to regulate immigration, a federal responsibility.

He said that the strengthened restriction on factoring race and ethnicity makes enforcement “potentially less discriminatory,” but that the local-law provision is troubling because it broadens when the law could be used. Lawmakers approved the follow-on bill several hours before ending their 2010 session.

The sponsor, State Senator Russell Pearce, unveiled the changes at a House-Senate conference committee on Thursday. He later said the revisions would not change how the law is implemented but provide clarifications on intent and make the bill more defensible in court.

“There will be no profiling,” Mr. Pearce, a Republican from Mesa, said in an interview.

Mr. Pearce said the change from the “contact” wording does not require a formal arrest before questioning but helps make it clear that racial profiling is not allowed.



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