Pro-immigrant GOP Group Blasts Obama for Ineptitude at AZ Law SCOTUS Hearingby Bob Quasius, Sr. on Apr. 25, 2012, under Arpaio, SB1070
Marshall, MN – We’re quite frankly perplexed that the Obama administration did not use the most powerful argument against Arizona’s immigration law at today’s U.S. Supreme Court hearing today. Chief Justice Roberts even opened the door with the question “No part of your argument has to do with racial or ethnic profiling?” and yet Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. still declined to raise the issue.
The most controversial part of the Arizona law is the mandate that police inquire about immigration status when there is “reasonable suspicion” that a person stopped by police may be subject to deportation. The U.S. Department of Justice invested considerable resources into investigating widespread complaints of racial profiling by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, headed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and based on Arpaio’s own records concluded that Latinos are 4-9 times as likely to be stopped by police for traffic violations, and 20% of the stops of Latinos lacked probable cause for the stop. The USDOJ even sued Arpaio to obtain cooperation when Arpaio refused to cooperate, and is preparing another lawsuit to force Arpaio to reform his department to end the abuses. Ending racial profiling often requires years of complex litigation, and it is difficult to hold police accountable, which is why the practice continues.
Arpaio’s department remains the only police department in the U.S. ever stripped of 287(g) immigration enforcement authority by ICE, due to the widespread evidence of civil rights abuses such as racial profiling. Arizona’s SB1070 immigration law was introduced shortly after Arpaio lost street immigration enforcement authority, and appears intended to provide Arpaio legal cover to continue his immigration enforcement authority, as well as force all Arizona police to follow Arpaio’s failed policing model. Eight Arizona police departments and jails already have 287(g) authority and don’t need SB1070 to engage in immigration enforcement, and many Arizona police chiefs opposed SB1070 because it would force them to divert considerable resources from crime fighting to immigration enforcement.
The 287(g) program has been plagued with problems as detailed by ICE’s Inspector General, and yet offers more protection against civil rights abuses than SB1070. A formal agreement is required before state and local police can engage in immigration enforcement, background checks and a minimum of one year experience are required of police officers, officers must complete several weeks of training, and work under supervision of ICE. In contrast, SB1070 does not mandate any training requirements, does not mandate ICE supervision, or background checks. SB1070 prohibits racial profiling but makes no provision for holding police accountable for racial profiling, only for not vigorously enforcing immigration law. Racial profiling is already illegal but pervasive, as evidenced in the USDOJ report on Arpaio’s department and numerous other credible studies.
SB1070 is clearly at odds with federal law and should be preempted. Unfortunately, due to Verrilli’s incompetent representation it seems likely that the most controversial aspect of SB1070 will be upheld. If SB1070 and copycat laws are upheld, we predict that racial profiling against Latinos and others who ‘appear’ Latino will become even more pervasive. A 2008 poll by Pew Research found 9% of adult Latinos reported they had been stopped and asked legal status during the previous 12 months. Not surprisingly, 81% of Hispanics do not want police involved in immigration enforcement.
Already, there is solid evidence that Secure Communities drives racial profiling against Latinos. According to a recent report, 93% of those detained under Secure Communities are Latino versus 77% of the undocumented immigrant population, and the percentage of those detained for non-criminal offenses (i.e. traffic infractions) is approaching 50% recently. Clearly, police are using Secure Communities as a funnel, often arresting Latinos rather than issuing citations for minor traffic infractions, so jails can investigate their legal status. Unfortunately, in the process an estimated 3,600 U.S. Citizens have already been arrested and detained by ICE, and many Latinos are being jailed for offenses where others are cited. For example, a Latino man in the twin cities area was stopped and arrested for a broken tail light on his bicycle, while it is doubtful most bicyclists would even be stopped for a broken tail light!