Uncategorized · April 28, 2010

That beastly Arizona Immigration Law

Well, Arizona’s got a new law. Arizona State Bill 1070 (called the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act”) was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer.

According to Governor Brewer: (PDF link)

This bill, the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, strengthens the laws of our state.  It protects all of us, every Arizona citizen and everyone here in our state lawfully.  And, it does so while ensuring that the constitutional rights of ALL in Arizona remain solid – stable and steadfast.

Really?  That’s great.  So what does this law say?  Let’s take a look at SB1070 (PDF link):


Wow!  That’s great.  So what is a “lawful contact”?  It could be a traffic stop, a sobriety checkpoint, an age verification check in a bar, or even a random encounter on the street.  In Arizona it is lawful for a police officer to stop a citizen and ask for his or her name –  as long as that police officer thinks the person is “suspicious”.  This is also a “lawful contact”, and so the police officer can now ask for proof of citizenship too.

But this law says that the officer must have “reasonable suspicion” that the person stopped is an alien!  But, what does that mean?

During a press conference on Friday, (April 23rd) Governor Brewer was asked, “What does an illegal immigrant look like?”  She answered,

“I do not know.  I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like.  I can tell you that… I think there are people in Arizona that assume they know what an illegal immigrant looks like.  I don’t know if they know that for a fact or not.  But I know that if AZ Post gets their selves together, works on this law, puts down the description, that the law will be enforced civilly, fairly, and without discriminatory… ah… points to it.

“Without discriminatory points” – so, it’s not profiling.  After all, who is to say that the illegal immigrant is a brown person from Mexico?  I’ve known a couple of illegal immigrants from Korea, and another from France.  And we’ve all heard stories about illegals bringing their children into the country at a young age, who grew up speaking colloquial English.  It is possible that the cute blond-haired girl next door who goes to high school with your son might (just might) be in America illegally!

Just because you are a blond-haired redneck driving a pickup truck with a confederate flag on the bumper, it doesn’t mean that you are NOT an illegal alien.  In order to not discriminate, Arizona police should ask for proof of citizenship during ANY “lawful contact”.  Racial profiling has been ruled illegal by the Supreme Court, so if a citizen suspects that he or she has been profiled merely because he or she is brown – then they can take the police to court.

Phoenix Arizona Vice Mayor Michael Nowakowski is concerned about possible civil suits that may result over racial profiling.  He has said that he will meet with the Phoenix City Council and the Police Chief in order to discuss his proposal to:  “ask every person that’s pulled over by the city of Phoenix Police Department, or called to their homes, to ask for their citizenship”

So what’s the harm in that?  If you hate illegal immigrants, it may seem like such a small inconvenience to produce your “proof of citizenship”.  The comments from people on Twitter, or in the comment sections of news organizations that are reporting on this law seem to indicate that quite a few people are happy to show their citizenship to police upon demand.

This is a fundamentally bad idea, and is an embarrassing comment on the state of civics education in America.

Do you have proof of citizenship with you right now?  I’d suggest that most Americans do not. 

What qualifies as proof of citizenship?  I was married to a legal non-resident alien for 23 years.  (She had passed her citizenship test but wasn’t sworn in.)  As a legal non-resident she had both a driver’s license and a Social Security Card.  Personally, I no longer have a social security card, and haven’t carried one since slightly after I joined the US Air Force in 1984. 

A legal non-resident can very quickly become an illegal alien who is still carrying a valid driver’s license and Social Security Card.  Looking at this on the street, a police officer can’t tell a legal from an illegal.

What about a birth certificate?  A piece of paper with an official looking seal on it… but it isn’t a photo ID.  Just looking at one will also not prove citizenship.

As far as I can tell, the only documents that a policeman can examine and reasonably determine that you are a citizen or a legal alien are a passport, a military ID card, and (funny enough) a Permanent Resident Card – also known as a “Green Card”.

What does a police officer do when you give him your license and registration?  According to the Arizona law, he just follows Section 1373(c) of Title 8 of the United States Code.  (PDF link)  That law merely states that the INS (now USCIS) shall:

respond to an inquiry by a Federal, State, or local government agency, seeking to verify or ascertain the citizenship or immigration status of any individual within the jurisdiction of the agency for any purpose authorized by law, by providing the requested verification or status information.

And how does he do this?  It’s simple, he just logs onto the USCIS “E-Verify” website from his patrol car, and makes an inquiry as to whether you can legally work in the United States. 

SB1070 also says that it is lawful to detain someone while the verification is in process, and it allows the officer to arrest, “without a warrant” the suspect if that officer has, “probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States.”  Really?  What does that mean if the officer “has probable cause to believe” that a suspect has committed the “public offense” of being in the US illegally?  This would seem to be a “catch 22” situation.  It would seem to give an officer a free pass to arrest or “detain” anyone on a pretense.

So, what does the USCIS have to say about the E-Verify system?  I found the section on “Tentative Nonconfirmations” to be very interesting.  Apparently the USCIS system doesn’t always work!

E-Verify works by comparing the information employees provide on the Employment Eligibility Verification form (Form I-9) against millions of government records. Generally, if the information matches, the employee receives an “Employment Authorized” response in E-Verify. If the information does not match, the employee is given an opportunity to resolve the problem.

A Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC) response means that the Social Security Administration (SSA) and/or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could not confirm that the employee’s information matches government records. It does not mean an employee is unauthorized to work or is an illegal immigrant as there are legitimate reasons why an employee may receive this result.

Whups! So sorry, you aren’t in the “system”!  That’s too bad.  But maybe there’s a problem on the E-Verify side.  How long will it be until they fix that problem?

For those cases requiring manual review, E-Verify will first return a “DHS Verification in Process” response, and will then usually provide an initial verification result within 24 to 48 hours.

Well, 48 hours doesn’t seem too bad does it?  But according to the E-Verify manual, if you receive a DHS Tentative Nonverification, the process could drag out.  Here’s what the manual says: (PDF link to manual)

DHS VERIFICATION IN PROCESS: This response indicates that the non-citizen’s information provided to SSA matches the information contained in SSA records, but did not match DHS’ records. The case is then automatically referred to DHS for further verification. You do not need to take any action at this point. DHS will respond to most of these cases within 24 hours, although some responses may take up to three (3) Federal government workdays. You should check the system daily for a response.

I hope you didn’t get pulled over on a Friday night!  You might not make it back to work until next Thursday!

But, that’s okay, because you are in jail.  You can call a lawyer to help you out, and call your wife and employer to let them know where you are… right?  Maybe – maybe not.  The new Arizona Law seems to have wording that indicates that during this process you are only being “detained”, and not actually “arrested”.  If you were arrested, you’d have the right to a lawyer, and can make a phone call or two.  But if you’re only being detained you do not have those rights.

There is no mention in this new law about what would happen to your vehicle during this time if you were detained during a routine traffic stop.  My guess is that it will be towed and impounded.  If so, then you would be told to pay the fees for towing and impounding.

So let’s get back to the pickup-truck driving “bubba” in a Peterbilt hat with an “America, Love it or leave it” sticker on the bumper.  Even with all I’ve said here, Bubba might still be in favor of this new Arizona law because he’s White, darn it!  And not brown like some illegal Mexican!  Enforce the law ’cause Bubba won’t get pulled over!

Has Bubba given any thought as to how many Hispanics are on his local Arizona police force?  A few of these might even be what Fox News commentators lovingly call an “anchor baby“.  I would think that these people, over everyone else, will make sure that the law is applied fairly to everyone, light or dark skinned.

There is also no provision to allow access to the E-Verify system from an officer’s patrol vehicle. What if you’re pulled over in Leupp Arizona, population 970 – with a total of SIX white residents? The police there are probably going to be using a dial-up connection to verify your citizenship. I hope they have a fast modem!

I don’t know how this law will turn out.  I’ll bet that it will soon be challenged in court.  Meanwhile legislators in Texas are planning on a similar bill – Texas State Republican Debbie Riddle (R-Tomball) has said she plans to file a similar bill.

And I have to ask – what logical outcome will be the result if other states (or the Federal Government) implemented similar laws?  Even if the USCIS (a bureau of Homeland Security) got its act together and provided instant identification of citizenship, there is still a possibility of a problem if the database crashes, or the police department loses it’s data connection.  But why should we worry about that?  It’s not like Homeland Security ever makes mistakes.

Instead of relying on a computer database, what if all American citizens just carry a National ID card?  The Real ID Act of 2005 was enacted by Congress to modify Federal Law in order to change your driver’s license into a national ID card.  That would work just fine for this purpose – a police officer could just examine your compliant driver’s license / National ID card, and determine if you are a citizen or not. 

I’ve seen something just like this in South Korea.  When traveling by bus near the Demilitarized Zone, we often had to stop at a police checkpoint where a stern faced policeman (backed up by another policeman carrying an M-16) walked up and down the bus isle looking at everyone’s national ID.  (I showed them my military ID during these stops.)

Hey, it works for them.  it should work here too.

Of course, there might be some protest from Christians who are worried about the fulfillment of Revelation 13:16-18.