Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hysteria about the Arizona Immigration Law

Let's get real. The law requires police to check with federal authorities on a person's immigration status, but if, and only if, officers have stopped that person for some *other* legitimate reason and come to suspect that he or she might be in the U.S. illegally. The heart of the law is this provision:

"For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency...where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person..."
Critics have focused on the term "reasonable suspicion", but what fewer people have noticed is the phrase "lawful contact," which defines what must be going on before police even think about checking immigration status. That means the officer is already engaged in some detention of an individual because s/he's already violated some other law. So this law would come into play in a traffic stop, or a burglary, or a robbery, or some other arrest.

As far as "reasonable suspicion" is concerned, there is a great deal of case law dealing with the idea, but in immigration matters, it means a combination of circumstances that, taken together, cause the officer to suspect lawbreaking.

For example: human smuggling. An officer stops a group of people in a car that is speeding. The car is overloaded. Nobody had identification. The driver acts evasively. They are on a known smuggling corridor. That is a not uncommon occurrence in Arizona, and any officer would reasonably suspect that the people in the car were illegal.

But what if the driver of the car had shown the officer his driver's license? The law clearly says that if someone produces a valid Arizona driver's license, or other state-issued identification, they are presumed to be here legally and the lawman can go no further. An overcrowded car out on a joyride does not equal illegal alien trafficking in that case.

Is having to produce a driver's license too burdensome? These days, natural-born U.S. citizens, and everybody else, too, are required to show a driver's license to get on an airplane, to check into a hotel, even to purchase some over-the-counter allergy medicines out of fear they may be making meth. If it's a burden, it's a burden on everyone.

Meanwhile, a funny parody, because only the truth is really funny.

And our ever objective lamestream media coverage....

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