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Arizona’s “Show Me Your Papers” Law Partially Struck Down

In 2010, Arizona enacted a controversial law (SB 1070) requiring police officers to detain suspected illegal immigrants until their legal status could be verified. This week the Supreme Court struck down part of the law while leaving part of the law untouched.

In particular, the Court ruled that Arizona may not make it a state crime for illegal immigrants not to carry immigration papers or seek employment, nor may they allow state officers to arrest without warrant people they suspect of being removable from the U.S.

However, the Court let stand one of the most disturbing provisions of the Arizona law, the section requiring officers to check the immigration status of anyone they stop, arrest, or detain whom they suspect of being in the U.S. illegally. It is not clear what criteria Arizona officals will apply when determing who they “reasonably suspect” of being here illegally, but it’s hard to imagine that race and language won’t play a role. Beyond it’s consequences for people here illegally, Arizona’s law will almost certainly have a negative effect on immigrants here legally, including legal permanent residents and naturalized U.S. citizens.

Critics of the Arizona law have referred to it as the “Show me your papers law” and that’s a fair representation of what life will be like for Arizona residents under the new law. After all, how else can a U.S. citizen who is of foreign origin prove his citizenship without carrying papers?

The Arizona law is abhorent to the American values of freedom and privacy and we can only hope that further challenges to the law will allow the Supreme Court to strike-down the whole thing.

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