New York Times (Arizona)
By Fernanda Santos
September 15, 2016
Arizona’s attorney general on Thursday detailed limits on the authority of state and local agencies to enforce immigration laws, ending a six-year fight over a state law that gave local authorities broad powers to detain anyone they suspected of being in the country illegally.
In a nonbinding opinion filed in Federal District Court here, the attorney general, Mark Brnovich, recommended specific limits on the actions of state and local police officers: They are permitted to ask about immigration status during a traffic stop or criminal investigation, but they may not extend a stop, detention or arrest simply to verify a person’s immigration status.
“Maybe this should have been done years ago,” Mr. Brnovich said in an interview. “Some folks look for answers, others look for fights. I think in this situation, we’re ready for answers.”
The opinion was the first time that a Republican elected official in Arizona had moved to clarify the limits of the stringent state law, known as S.B. 1070, that was aimed at identifying, prosecuting and deporting undocumented immigrants.
The law required state law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of anyone they stopped or arrested if there was “reasonable suspicion” that the person might be in the county illegally, leading to widespread claims of discrimination against Latinos.
It came as part of a settlement of a lawsuit filed by immigrants’ rights groups in 2010, shortly after the bill was signed into law.
The opinion instructs officers not to make an arrest simply because a person lacks proper identification, and not to use race, ethnicity or national origin as a reason to stop or detain a person “except when it is part of a suspect description.”
The opinion, Mr. Brnovich said, will serve as a guide for law enforcement agencies and officers, but it is not binding. Police departments and county sheriff’s offices are free to ignore it. Nonetheless, Mr. Brnovich said that as the state’s chief law enforcement official, he would share it with “every police agency that wants to listen” and encourage compliance.
Some departments, like those in the cities of Mesa and Tucson, have already adopted similar policies, although the American Civil Liberties Union has since documented several claims of racial profiling against the Tucson police.
The enforcement guidelines give the immigrants rights groups that sued the state over S.B. 1070 the ammunition to go after local law enforcement agencies that flout the law.
“The legislators who passed S.B. 1070 were envisioning an Arizona where every police officer would be able to detain people based on their immigration status, and the opinion by the attorney general recognizes for the first time that this is illegal,” Cecillia Wang, the director of the A.C.L.U.’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in an interview.
“While that’s a victory, we’re not done yet,” she said. “We’ll be watching every police officer, every sheriff’s office in the state to make sure they comply with the constitution.”
Mr. Brnovich’s enforcement guidelines were part of a settlement of a lawsuit filed in 2010 by the A.C.L.U., the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund and other advocacy groups soon after Jan Brewer, then the governor of Arizona, signed S.B. 1070 into law.
The lawsuit did not stop lawmakers in two dozen states from introducing similar bills. Five states — Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah — passed laws, but most have been limited by the courts.
In Arizona, Ms. Brewer and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who built a name for himself as an unapologetic pursuer of undocumented immigrants, became villains to immigration advocates and heroes to those who believed in the need for strong immigration enforcement.
But the law was costly to Arizona, resulting in boycotts and loss of concerts, conventions and business.
“When the state takes such an aggressive lead on questions of immigration enforcement, it’s not just bad for the community,” Lisa Urias, executive board member of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “It’s bad for business. It tarnishes the image of state.”
As part of the settlement, the state will pay the plaintiffs’ $1.4 million in legal fees.
A separate lawsuit against the state over the law, filed by the Obama administration, went to the Supreme Court, where justices struck down a measure that would have subjected undocumented immigrants to criminal penalties if they were caught looking for work.
Mr. Brnovich’s guidelines echo many of the boundaries already established by the federal courts. Among them is a ruling against Sheriff Arpaio and his deputies at the Maricopa County sheriff’s office, who were found to have used racial profiling and illegal detentions to target Latinos.
The sheriff is now facing criminal contempt charges for failing to implement the court’s orders.
One of the sponsors of S.B. 1070, State Senator John Kavanagh, characterized the settlement as “a clear rejection of the notion that the law is racist” because it does not fundamentally change anything about the provision, one of the few remaining elements of the law that still stands.
“I certainly have no problem with instructing police officers in its proper application,” he said.
At a news conference, Salvador Reza, a community activist, said he does not see the attorney general’s guidelines and the lawsuit’s settlement as a victory.
Anywhere in the state, the police can still “stop somebody, a lawful stop — and we know what a lawful stop means here in Arizona — and when somebody doesn’t produce a driver’s license, they can start an investigation on their status,” Mr. Reza said.
“I’m glad the attorney general finally put something out. However, our community, the one I represent, I’ve warned them: don’t let your guard down.”
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com