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Arizona Immigration Law (S.B. 1070)

On April 23, 2010, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law Senate Bill 1070. The bill aimed to prevent illegal immigration, significantly affecting the Mexico-bordering state of Arizona. The law was titled "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act."

This article provides information about S.B. 1070 in Arizona.

S.B. 1070 Faced Many Legal Challenges

As a result of legal challenges, not all parts of the bill remain in effect. The original bill would have enlisted local police to enforce federal immigration laws in the state. It required law enforcement to check the immigration status of any person they have "reasonable suspicion" of being in the U.S. illegally.

But, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2012 and a settlement with plaintiffs in 2016 have gutted the law — including provisions related to the "reasonable suspicion" standard.

For example, the cases removed a provision that would have charged immigrants with a misdemeanor for failing to carry documentation of their legal status. While the law required police to ask for proof of legal residency status, it is now subject to the officer's discretion. It also forced migrants in the state of Arizona, who remained there beyond 30 days, to register with the state. This part of the bill referred to certain "alien registration" requirements.

Below is a general overview of some of the legal implications of this law and its status after being challenged in the courts.

National, State, and Local Reaction

The signing of Arizona S.B. 1070 sparked an ongoing national debate from opponents and supporters over its legality. Opponents claimed the law was unconstitutional under civil rights laws. They believed it would lead to racial profiling and harassment.

Supporters of the measure claimed the law enforces what the federal government already requires. They argued that the law aims to keep neighborhoods and communities safe. They also argued that the bill is necessary in a state heavily affected by illegal immigration. In defense of the bill, they pointed to problems with drug smuggling and human trafficking in Arizona. Some say the law would help lead the charge for immigration reform.

The Supremacy Clause

The United States is a federalist system. States have some freedom in how they write and pass laws. But they must remain within specific parameters to not violate the U.S. Constitution, as only Congress can enact federal laws. Local governments may have some latitude in the laws of their jurisdictions. But mandates and ordinances from any jurisdiction cannot contradict U.S. constitutional law.

The Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution requires that federal law "preempts" (or trumps) state law.

Immigration laws and policies are federal. As a result, the Arizona immigration law was challenged as violating the Supremacy Clause. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower federal court's injunction of the law, kicking the matter up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Challenges to the Arizona Law

In July 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit in a federal court against the state of Arizona. The DOJ argued that S.B. 1070 would interfere with federal enforcement of U.S. immigration law. The complaint indicated that S.B. 1070 could compromise efforts by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This could distract ICE from prioritizing actual national security threats.

Among the claims by the D.O.J. was that S.B. 1070 would take resources in Arizona away from bigger priorities, such as fighting terrorism. The DOJ also argued that it would cause the harassment and detention of those in the United States legally, including U.S. citizens.

After the federal court granted a preliminary injunction against certain parts of S.B. 1070, many parts of the bill were repealed. After that, federal authorities could operate the way they once had in Arizona.

In a 5-3 ruling in 2012, the Supreme Court overturned three of the provisions of S.B. 1070. But, the court allowed the provision requiring police to demand documentation of legal residency intact. SCOTUS justified this by citing the Supremacy Clause.

In 2016, the state settled lawsuits with the National Immigration Law Center by dropping this provision. Other immigrant rights groups were involved in the lawsuit, as well. Along with the settlement, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued the following statement:

"Officers shall not prolong a stop, detention, or arrest solely to verify immigration status. Officers shall not contact, stop, detain or arrest an individual based on race, color, or national origin, except when it is part of a suspect description."

Racial Profiling

Racial profiling uses race or nationality to identify a person as a suspect or potential suspect. Opponents believe S.B. 1070 would unfairly lead to racial profiling among residents or visitors within the state. They believed this because the new law would allow police to arrest people they suspect of being in Arizona illegally.

S.B. 1070 would have given local law enforcement officials in the state far too many powers to violate the civil rights of U.S. citizens. By requiring that state law enforcement officers check the citizenship status of "suspicious" people, S.B. 1070 would encourage racial profiling. Many advocacy groups, like the ACLU, condemned the parts of S.B. 1070 that facilitated racial profiling.

The ACLU once said it had filed its lawsuit, given that the bill encouraged "racial profiling of Latinos and others who may look or sound 'foreign,' including many U.S. citizens who have lived in America their entire lives." Similarly, it could impact US citizens who went through the naturalization process.

Attorneys for the ACLU argued that these parts of the bill would violate citizens' rights to equal protection under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

To learn more about the relationship between racial discrimination and equal protection, review FindLaw's page on the issue.

National Immigration Policies

Many national immigration reform advocates hoped the controversy surrounding Arizona's law would help emphasize the need for a comprehensive federal reform law. But such reform has yet to be introduced. While many legal challenges have resulted from the bill, many deficiencies remain within the U.S. immigration system.

Public Safety Concerns

Because of fears the law would discourage immigrants from reporting criminal activity, there was a concern over public safety. Unauthorized residents who fear prosecution could have put others at risk by not reporting such activities.

'Piggyback' Affect

Following the passage of Arizona's (now mostly defunct) S.B. 1070, a growing number of states followed suit. Legislators in at least five states have introduced laws mirroring the Arizona immigration law. Those states include:

  • Pennsylvania
  • Minnesota
  • South Carolina
  • Rhode Island
  • Mississippi
  • Alabama

But most of those efforts were also challenged and failed following court actions.

Immigration Lawsuits

Several Arizona police officers also filed lawsuits against the state. They claimed that they were required to enforce a law that could potentially cause liability for themselves. Concerned that local immigration enforcement agencies and groups would abuse their authorities in carrying out S.B. 1070, many people filed lawsuits against the state of Arizona. It was a concern that even legal immigration would be negatively affected because those legally in the country might be subject to abuses.

Other Important Parts of the Bill

S.B. 1070 also required employers to use E-Verify. The E-Verify system provides employers with information about applicants' and workers' legal authorization to work in the United States.

The bill says: "Every three months, the attorney general shall request from the United States Department of Homeland Security a list of employers from this state registered with the E-Verify program."

The bill imposes sanctions on employers that do not use the system. Sanctions include revoking business licenses.

Another of the prevailing concerns was that S.B. 1070 would have interfered with people seeking preventive health care or health care in general. Because the bill would have required checks of patients' immigration status, there was concern that people would not seek emergency services.

Defend Your Rights

Federal and state regulations affect immigrants without proper documentation and others with immigration status. Now, more than ever, the help of a legal professional can make an enormous difference. Contact a local immigration attorney and learn more about your rights. If you're navigating an immigration process or trying to secure immigration services, working with an attorney is always a good idea.

Noncitizens are often in vulnerable situations, regardless of whether they hold visas, have a driver's license, or are permanent residents. It's essential to protect yourself and your rights. If you're facing deportation, working with an attorney is also a good idea. If you're the victim of racial profiling or other abusive practices by police, you should consult a lawyer. Whether you're in Phoenix, Tucson, or any other part of Arizona, it helps to work with a lawyer.

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