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Proof SB 1070 Legalizes Racial Profiling

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“It is undisputed that S.B. 1070 is a facially neutral law.” That’s federal judge Susan Bolton justifying her September 4 decision to uphold the “show me your papers” provision of Arizona’s immigration law.

Clearly, Bolton’s courtroom is a parallel universe where lies are true and a law created to remove brown people from the U.S. will not disproportionately impact brown people.

Since 2010, immigrant rights groups have successfully fought to slash racist sections of SB 1070. Four provisions lay dead on the courtroom floor. But yet to be slain was the most destructive and controversial of all – section 2B, which requires law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone they stop if they suspect the person is undocumented. 

Last week, Bolton ruled that plaintiffs failed to “demonstrate that state law enforcement officials will enforce the law differently for Latinos.”

Really? Shall we try to demonstrate it?

1. SB 1070 allows officers to question the immigration status of anyone stopped if the officer has a “reasonable suspicion” the person is undocumented. According to a 2010 Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office training video, “reasonable suspicion” can be justified if the person speaks broken English, has “an appearance unusual to the locale,” has the appearance of “being in transit,” looks nervous and doesn’t make eye contact, is driving in a crowded vehicle on a known “smuggling route,” or dresses/looks like an “illegal alien.” Facially neutral?

2. At an immigration checkpoint in Arivaca, Arizona, Latino drivers are stopped 26 times more frequently than whites, according to a study by People Helping People.

3. Hispanics are stopped an average of 17 percent of the time on northern Arizona roads, though they commit traffic violations only 8 percent of the time, according to two separate studies.

4. Hispanics and blacks are 2.5 times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop, according to a study from the ACLU. Even when no search is conducted, Hispanics are stopped and questioned for longer periods of time than whites. 

5. In metro Phoenix, Maricopa County sheriff’s officers conducted patrols of areas where Latinos congregate. They watched Latinos get into trucks, and they followed the vehicles until the driver committed some infraction. This could be as minor as having a pebble-sized chip on a windshield. Officers then inspected the documents of the occupants – even passengers who had not noticeably committed a crime – and detained those they suspected were undocumented immigrants. They typically did not give a citation to the white driver. Facially neutral?

Immigrant rights activists aren’t backing down and will continue to fight to obliterate the law that legalizes racial profiling. Check out our timeline of SB 1070’s checkered past below, and watch this space.

SB 1070: A Timeline

April 23, 2010: Governor Jan Brewer signs SB 1070 into law. 

July 6, 2010: The U.S. Department of Justice files a lawsuit against Arizona seeking a permanent injunction against SB 1070 on the grounds that the federal government is in charge of immigration enforcement, not individual states.

July 28, 2010: U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton issues a temporary injunction against four provisions in SB 1070, the day before they were supposed to go into effect:

          Section 2B, which requires officers to determine the immigration status of anyone they legally stop whom they suspect is an undocumented immigrant.

          Section 3, which makes it a state misdemeanor crime for immigrants to be in Arizona without carrying their registration documents with them at all times. It was already a federal misdemeanor.

          Section 5, which makes it illegal for an undocumented immigrant to apply for or perform work in Arizona.

          Section 6, which allows officers to make an arrest without a warrant if the officer believes a person has committed a deportable crime.

August 2010 – April 2011: Brewer appeals. Lawsuits and countersuits are filed. The Ninth Circuit Court upholds Bolton’s injunction.

2011: Five copycat SB 1070 laws are passed, in Alabama, Utah, Georgia, South Carolina and Indiana.

August 10, 2011: Arizona files an appeal with the Supreme Court, saying the federal administration was not doing enough to enforce immigration laws, and SB 1070 was necessary to complement federal enforcement efforts. This is despite the fact that, at the time, the Obama administration had deported 1.2 million people.

June 25, 2012: The Supreme Court strikes down Sections 3, 5, and 6 of SB 1070 but unanimously upholds Section 2B, the most controversial provision.

July 17, 2012: Several immigrant rights groups and individuals file Valle del Sol v. Whiting to block Section 2B. The evidence includes emails from SB 1070 architect Russell Pearce that include statements as factually dubious as they are grammatically appalling: “Simply enforce our laws and you will see less crime, lower taxes, smaller class sizes, shorter lines in our emergency rooms and reduce deaths, murders, maimings, drugs, home invasions, car jackings, kidnappings, jobs taken from Americans, reduced wages, an ultimately save the taxpayer billions of dollars. We cannot afford to “NOT” enforce our laws. Attrition by Enforcement.”

The same email from Pearce includes the following rant: “NO JOBS!! NO FREE STUFF!! NO SANCTUARY POLICIES!! NO MORE IGNORING THE DAMAGE, THE COST, THE CRIME, THE DEATHS, THE JOBS TAKEN, THE WAGES LOWERED, THE HEALTHCARE CRISIS, THE EDUCATIONAL IMPACT OF OVER 20% OF K – 12 ARE NON-ENGLISH SPEAKERS…”

September 4, 2015: Federal Judge Susan Bolton upholds Section 2B.