Rights Groups Call on Obama Administration to End Immigration Partnerships with Local Police in Arizona and States with Laws Similar to SB1070

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Keith Rushing, Communications Manager, krushing@Rightsworkinggroup
(p) 202.591.3305, (c) 202.557.4291

July 16, 2012, Washington, D.C. – Faith, labor and civil rights groups from around the nation today called on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to end partnerships with state and local police in Arizona and the five states with SB1070 copycat laws to ensure that the federal government does not aid in the implementation of these discriminatory racial profiling laws. Specifically, the groups call on DHS to end 287(g) agreements and the Secure Communities programs in these states, initiatives that require cooperation amongst federal immigration authorities and state and local law enforcement.  The other five states include: Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Indiana and Utah.

In a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, more than 233 organizations said the recommendations were intended to “ensure [DHS] enforcement operations do not contribute to racial profiling and prolonged detention in Arizona and the other states that have passed immigration enforcement laws.”

SB1070’s Section 2B requires Arizona residents to prove their residency status, if, during lawful police stops, officers have reasonable suspicion that they are undocumented.

“It is clear that reasonable suspicion will be determined based on how people look and sound,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Rights Working Group. “People of color will be less likely to be assumed to be citizens or documented residents and will thus bear the brunt of discriminatory treatment under SB1070.”

The letter notes that after the Supreme Court ruled last month that Section 2B of the law could go into effect, President Obama expressed serious concerns of racial profiling, saying: “ ‘No American should live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like.’ ”

The groups urge that DHS must take concrete steps to ensure that the federal government is not helping Arizona police engage in discriminatory policing.

In addition to calling for a termination of these states’ immigration enforcement partnerships, the organizations called on DHS to:

  • Collect data to determine whether state and local police in the six states are engaged in racial profiling or illegal detentions.
  • Establish a centralized unit at DHS headquarters to review all immigration  enforcement decisions to ensure DHS enforcement does not further racial profiling.
  • Give specialized instructions to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Support Center on how to respond to inquiries made by local police in the six states to prevent DHS from serving as a conduit for discriminatory policing.
  • Devote more resources to implementing its prosecutorial discretion policy robustly in the six states.

“It is completely contradictory for the Obama administration to express concern that SB1070 will lead to discrimination based on appearance and then move forward to collaborate with Arizona law enforcement agencies in implementing that law,” said Huang. “We urge the Obama administration and Secretary Napolitano to implement the recommendations in this letter to limit biased practices by law enforcement agencies in Arizona and states with similar laws.”

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Rights Working Group (RWG) formed in the aftermath of September 11th to promote and protect the human rights of all people in the United States. A coalition of more than 340 local, state and national organizations, RWG works collaboratively to advocate for the civil liberties and human rights of everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, citizenship or immigration status.