Arizona Law Is Unconstitutional and Will Invite Legal Challenge

For immediate release: April 23, 2010

Contact: John Garcia (212) 739-7513 or 917-673-9095

A law signed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer targets Latinos, will result in racial profiling and is unconstitutional. This law, similar to a number of local laws and ordinances LatinoJustice PRLDEF has fought in localities like Hazleton, Pennsylvania, will not withstand judicial scrutiny.

As the United States District Court found, such laws violate the due process rights of everyone in this country. The Honorable Judge Munley found that “due process applies to all persons within the United States, including aliens, whether their presence here is lawful, unlawful, temporary, or permanent.”

“The state of Arizona is requiring its police authorities to violate the Constitution,” said Cesar Perales, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “The law violates the very core principles of our Constitution, undermining our system of government – where the federal government is responsible for matters of immigration. Our nation can not have every state making its own immigration laws.”

Perales said Latinos will surely suffer disproportionately, as they are currently the predominant group perceived as foreign and thereby often misperceived as undocumented. Law enforcement will have a difficult time implementing a law which by its very nature requires unlawful racial profiling.

The law makes it a state crime to be in the country without authorization. It will make it a misdemeanor to lack proper immigration paperwork in Arizona. It requires police officers, if they form a "reasonable suspicion" that someone is undocumented, to determine the person's immigration status.

Citizens can sue to compel police agencies to comply with the law, and no city or agency can formulate a policy directing its workers to ignore the law -- a provision that advocates say prevents so-called sanctuary orders that police not inquire about people's immigration status.

The law cements the position of Arizona, whose border with Mexico is the most popular point of entry for unauthorized immigrants into this country, as the state most aggressively using its own laws to fight immigration.

In 2006 the state passed a law that would dissolve companies with a pattern of hiring undocumented immigrants. Last year it made it a crime for a government worker to give improper benefits to an illegal immigrant.

These ill-conceived attempts by other states and municipalities at making local anti-immigration laws have resulted in many of them taking on great economic risks.

In 2006, the State of Colorado passed a series of bills meant to deny public services to undocumented immigrants, create a new penalty for use of fraudulent documents, enroll all state departments in the federal Basic Pilot program, and require state police to enforce immigration laws. One year later, eighteen state departments had spent a total of $2.03 million on implementation of the new laws and identified zero undocumented immigrants.

In Riverside, New Jersey, a town of 8,000 spent $82,000 in legal fees defending its restrictive immigration ordinance which penalized anyone who employed or rented to an undocumented immigrant. LatinoJustice PRLDEF filed a lawsuit against the city. The ordinance was eventually withdrawn.

The town of Farmers Branch, in Texas, appealed a federal district judge decision which deemed the town’s rental ban ordinance unconstitutional. Since September 2006, the town has spent $3.2 million on the legal fight and may have to spend an additional $623,000 this year.

And in Prince William County, VA supervisors ultimately decided against moving forward with the police enforcement of an immigration law after they found that the price tag would be a minimum of $14 million for five years.

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