Comments on SB1070

"Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhood Act"
Our Signature Legislation of the Fiftieth Legislature 2010

The new Arizona law actually codifies federal law into state law, which already requires aliens (non-citizens) to register and carry their documents with them (8 USC 1304(e) and 8 USC 1306(a)). The new Arizona law simply states that violating federal immigration law is now a state crime as well. Because illegal immigrants are by definition in violation of federal immigration laws, they can now be arrested by local law enforcement in Arizona.

The law only allows police to ask about immigration status in the normal course of "lawful contact" with a person, such as a traffic stop or if they have committed a crime. Federal law does not provide this additional protection to civil liberties.

Estimates from the federal government indicate that more than 80 percent of illegal immigrants come from Latin America including Mexico. Thus there is concern that police may target only Hispanics for enforcement.

Before asking a person about immigration status, law enforcement officials are required by the law to have a lawful contact, a violation of law and "a reasonable suspicion" that a person is acting illegally. The concept of "reasonable suspicion" is well established by court rulings. Since Arizona does not issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, having a valid license creates a presumption of legal status.

Examples of reasonable suspicion include:

  • A driver stopped for a traffic violation who has no license, or record of a driver's license or other form of federal or state identification, is in violation of state and federal law. Anyone legally in the U.S can get a state issued identification card.
  • A police officer observes someone buying fraudulent identity documents or crossing the border illegally.
  • A police officer recognizes a gang member back on the street who he knows has been previously deported by the federal government.

The law specifically states that police, "may not consider race, color or national origin" when implementing SB 1070. This is an additional protection to a citizen's civil liberties.

When Arizona's governor signed the new law, Governor Brewer also issued an executive order requiring the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board to provide local police with additional training on what does and does not constitute "reasonable suspicion." By the way that has been part of law enforcement training from the beginning of an officer's career.

Here is a statement about just one of these bills by the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, showing how the Arizona Legislature has corrected the impact of negative economic trends:

Since SB1070, Phoenix has experienced a 30-year low crime rate. 600 police vacancies, budget cuts, and old policing strategies didn't bring about these falling crime rates; SB1070 did. When hard-working rank-and-file Phoenix Police Officers were given access to the tool of SB1070, the deterrence factor this legislation brought about was clearly instrumental in our unprecedented drop in crime. All of this happened without a single civil rights, racial profiling, or biased policing complaint. To ignore the positive impact of SB1070 in the City of Phoenix is to ignore the huge elephant in the middle of the room.