Just days before an anticipated Supreme Court ruling, the American Civil Liberties Union wants state officials to warn possible “rogue” officers from enforcing the state’s immigration law before they are legally entitled to do so.
In a letter to the Peace Officers Standards and Training Board on Thursday, Alessandra Meetze, executive director of the Arizona chapter, said even if the Supreme Court upholds part of SB 1070, that does not free officers to immediately start checking the immigration status of those they have stopped.
At the very least, she said, the high court would order U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton to dissolve the injunction she issued nearly two years ago barring the state from enforcing several key provisions while the legality of the law is debated. And that process could take some time.
But Meetze also reminded Lyle Mann, the AzPOST executive director, that there are other challenges to SB 1070 pending which are not linked to the current case before the Supreme Court — and not based on the arguments of the Obama administration that federal law preempts the state statute. And Meetze said her organization is considering “all options” if the court sides with Arizona, including seeking a new injunction based on its own claims that SB 1070 will automatically lead to illegal racial profiling.
Mann was out of state on Thursday and an aide said he would respond to Meetze’s letter today.
The letter comes days after Gov. Jan Brewer ordered Mann’s agency to update the training video and materials it had prepared in 2010 in anticipation of SB 1070 taking effect.
Much of that surrounded the section which requires officers who have stopped someone to verify if that person is in the country legally if there is reasonable suspicion that he or she is not. The law allows the use of the person’s race to be used as a factor in making that determination, though it cannot be the only factor.
Mann said at the time the information is designed to ensure that officers do not engage in racial profiling. The training materials include guidelines that Border Patrol officers use when determining who to question.
Meetze said she fears that these new materials, being sent out now, amount to an invitation for officers to start making these inquiries the moment the Supreme Court issues its ruling, assuming it upholds the legality of what foes of the law have called the “show me your papers” provision.
She also pointed out those other pending lawsuits raise significant claims, including not just racial discrimination but constitutional questions that touch on the First and Fourth Amendments.
“Any law enforcement agency that attempts to enforce the enjoined provisions of SB 1070 before those provisions are deemed legally enforceable would expose itself to considerable scrutiny,” she wrote to Mann.
Meetze was more blunt in a separate statement.
“Rogue police officers who take it upon themselves to demand people’s papers before any part of the law even goes into effect will inevitably leave their communities highly exposed to lawsuits brought on by victims of these discriminatory practices,” she said.
Meetze also said that the training materials themselves are flawed because they are based on what courts have said the Border Patrol is entitled to do. She said those rulings involve people near the border and have nothing to do with normal interactions that state and local police have with those they stop.
For example, those materials list a host of factors that can be considered in determining whether there is reasonable suspicion someone is in this country illegally, such a travelling in a group, being in an overloaded car or being unable to speak English. Meetze said there are many people who are in this country legally who might fall into those categories.