Arizona Law Compels Police Officers to Racially Profile

Washginton D.C. - April 20, 2010 -- The anti-immigrant law passed by the Arizona legislature, SB 1070, and the proposed law in Ohio are a clear indication of the federal government’s abdication of its responsibility to enforce immigration law. The various laws and initiatives that have devolved civil immigration enforcement to state and local authorities such as 287(g) and Secure Communities has created the environment where bad laws like these are made possible.

The law passed in Arizona would require law enforcement to stop and question anyone whom they have "reasonable suspicion" to believe is undocumented. This law makes racial profiling the norm, causing the police to stop and question anyone who they believe to be "foreign," which will affect undocumented immigrants as well as those with lawful status, legal permanent residents and citizens alike.

The law also includes a provision that allows private citizens to sue law enforcement if they believe that agents are not enforcing the law. This unprecedented interference with the law enforcement mission turns the law on its head. Rather than allowing individuals to sue for having their rights violated by officers who engage in racial profiling, this law gives private citizens the right to sue law enforcement for not engaging in activity that promotes racial profiling. Not only will this law violate individuals' civil and human rights, it will interfere with the ability of law enforcement to engage in its primary mission – to protect and serve the community it works in.

"This law is the natural conclusion of a long process that has transferred the authority to enforce federal immigration law to the states, and created an environment ripe for racial profiling and other human rights abuses," said Margaret Huang, Executive Director of the Rights Working Group. "To avoid a situation where immigration enforcement depends on your state or zip code, the federal government must reassert its exclusive authority to enforce the law. Until that happens, unconstitutional laws like the one in Arizona will continue to be passed and people’s human rights will continue to be violated."

The Arizona law must be overturned, and the federal government must reassert its exclusive authority to enforce civil immigration law and prohibit racial profiling in all its forms. Specifically:

- The Department of Justice must rescind its 2002 memo finding that states and localities have “inherent authority” to enforce federal immigration law and reassert federal control over immigration enforcement.

- The Department of Justice must strengthen its 2003 guidance on the use of race in law enforcement to prohibit profiling based on religion and national origin, and close the loopholes that allow profiling at borders and in the name of national security.

- The Department of Homeland Security should eliminate programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities that use state and local criminal justice systems to enforce civil immigration laws.

- Congress should introduce and pass the "End Racial Profiling Act," which would prohibit profiling based on race, religion, national origin and ethnicity by federal, state and local police.

- Governor Jan Brewer should veto SB 1070.