AZ Tweaks SB 1070, Now Minimally Less Racist, Still Just As Dangerous

By Julianne Hing Apr 30, 2010

The authors of SB 1070 have updated the bill’s language with a couple tiny tweaks that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law this afternoon. Yesterday, three lawsuits were filed against SB 1070, charging that it is an unconstitutional law that will enable racial profiling of people of color and immigrants in Arizona. The first lawsuit was brought by the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, the second by a Tucson police officer, and a third by a coalition of immigrant and civil rights groups. The three changes were this:

-Stronger restrictions against the ability to use a person’s race or ethnicity as the sole reason to question them -More specific language that requires that police only ask about immigration status during a "lawful stop, detention or arrest" -Clarification that law enforcement officers would also be required to enforce SB 1070 if they were investigating local ordinances and even civil violations, not just federal and state laws.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Phoenix, told the East Valley Tribune that the new changes could mean police would also be allowed to inquire about immigration status when they’re investigating code violations like overgrown weeds, parked cars on streets and old, broke down cars stuck in driveways. "My guess is they’ve gotten some help from someone, possibly the Attorney General in Arizona, that suggested to them that make changes that so that it will help the law stand up in court." said Eric Cohen, the executive director of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. "The first two changes, although small and in practical matters might have a modicum of effect, in reality they’re not going to stop the basic premise the law," Cohen said. "Law enforcement is still going to be entitled to stop people, normally people of color through racial profiling, for immigration documents." Cohen said that while these "cosmetic" changes might help it stand up to constitutional scrutiny when it comes to Fourth and Fifth Amendment violations, he doesn’t foresee any of these updates to SB 1070 making it stronger against the court challenges that were filed yesterday. Neither the ACLU or MALDEF returned calls for comment. "I would argue they’re trying to abide by Fourth and Fifth Amendment law in the Ninth Circuit, but I don’t see how that’s going to affect the supremacy clause argument." The supremacy clause in the Constitution is what immigrant and civil rights groups have used to argue pre-emption, the legal argument that the federal government has supremacy over states and localities to enforce certain laws. Pre-emption has been successfully used to overturn California’s Prop 187 and other anti-immigrant ordinances where states and localities were overreaching their powers to enforce immigration law. "For instance, Arizona can’t start printing its own currency," said Cohen by way of example. But at this rate, it may only be a matter of time.