Friday, July 23, 2010

An Interesting Argument Over Arizona's Immigration Law

Now that Arizona's controversial new immigration law is being defended in federal courts, the arguments made both for and against the law are very interesting, and in particular, the one regarding the detainment of people until their "immigration status" is determined.  The arguments surrounding the requirement for immigrants to carry their papers at all times was also interesting, as well as the section that allows police to make an arrest without a warrant based on a vague suspicion.

In regards to detainment, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, asked Arizona's lawyer John Bouma "whether lawmakers really intended that anyone arrested, regardless of his or her legal status or whether the arrest involved citing and releasing someone on the spot or booking him or her into jail, had to have immigration status determined before being released from jail."
He first said that U.S. citizens don't have an "immigration status" and therefore SB 1070 wouldn't apply to them. He also said that part of the law was intended to follow the part allowing officers to ask someone about their legal status, which means it would apply only to individuals suspected of being in the country illegally.

"But (police) training materials specifically acknowledge that they don't know what it means and that it will be left up to each agency to decide what that sentence means," Bolton replied, adding that she had heard from some law-enforcement authorities that this portion of the law could lead to the arrest of tens of thousands of people who otherwise would have just been cited and released.

The ACLU's Jadwat said the plaintiffs interpret that portion to apply to any person arrested.

"And that goes far beyond anything contemplated in federal law . . . or that makes any real sense," he said. "You would be able to hold people for no other reason but to determine their legal status."

Bouma later admitted the sentence was "inartfully worded."
I thought this was interesting.  The defense gives their reason as to why the law should remain on the books, and when they face questioning from the judge asking to explain themselves, all the defense can say is that they phrased their response poorly?  The defense's lawyer was technically correct - the law would only apply to those suspected of being in the country illegally, but he fails to acknowledge the effect it would have on citizens.  I believe the ACLU's argument illustrates the problem with the law.
Section 3 of SB 1070 as amended creates the state crime of "willful failure to complete or carry an alien registration document."

Attorney Nina Perales with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, one of the civil-rights groups that filed the lawsuit along with the ACLU, said this portion of the law creates new classes of non-citizens because it doesn't offer exceptions for individuals who may be in the midst of citizenship or asylum proceedings and have permission to be in the country but don't yet have documents.

Bouma responded that that argument gets into a hypothetical "chamber of horrors" that people would be hauled off and thrown into jail to wait until someone could determine whether they belonged there.
While the judge agreed that this section only creates punishments for violations of federal law, the defense's response that hypotheticals should not be considered is ridiculous.  While this section does punish those in violation of federal law, it also punishes those here legally who may not have the appropriate information that could clear their name should they be detained under suspicion of being an illegal immigrant.

The defense made it clear that they may lose the argument pertaining to this section.
Section 6 of SB 1070 as amended allows law-enforcement officers to, without a warrant, arrest people suspected of committing offenses that make them "removable from the United States."

Bolton seemed to have serious concerns about this portion of the law. She said there is no list of crimes deemed to be removable offenses and questioned who would make that determination and at what point during the arrest it would be made.

"How can a police officer make a determination that a person has committed a removable offense when that decision can only be made by a federal judge?" she asked.
The Bolton had made a very good question in regarding to the above section, and is another instance in where this state law seeks to preempt the federal government.  

When all is said and done, I wonder if conservatives will admit that they were wrong and that their attempt to create an immigrant-free police state was worth the wasting of state and federal tax money...

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