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Racial Profiling in Arizona

Tuesday / December 30, 2014

After all the national attention of Arizona’s immigration laws in 2010, it may be difficult to figure out where the state’s law stands currently.


Arizona Senate Bill 1070 passed in 2010 making it unlawful for any “alien” over the age of 14 to remain in the United States over 30 days without registering with the U.S. government. Further, it required individuals to have required documents in their possession at all times to prove that they can legally remain in the U.S. It also allowed police officers in Arizona to attempt to determine an individual’s immigration status during a lawful stop, detention or arrest when there is “reasonable suspicion” that the individual may be an “illegal alien”.


On its face, the bill seems to promote racial profiling: if you look like you do not belong then you will get questioned and harassed. But the bill attempts to circumvent this by requiring the police to have a “reasonable suspicion” in order to question an individual based on their immigration status. This requirement has no standard of measurement. The rest of the country felt largely the same way in questioning the Constitutionality of SB1070.


On June 25, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court passed a landmark ruling in Arizona v. U.S. The court ruled that section 3, 5(c ), and 6 of SB1070 violated the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Federal Law, as long as it is Constitutional, is paramount over state laws) and struck those three sections down.


As of today, the current law in Arizona regarding immigration status allows police officers to investigate the immigration status of an individual stopped, detained or arrested if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the U.S. illegally. However, officers may not detain individuals for a prolonged amount of time for not carrying documentation of immigration status. Further, the State of Arizona cannot require an individual to carry documentation of lawful presence, police officers cannot arrest an individual without a warrant, nor can the state make it unlawful for an individual to apply for employment without federal work authorization. In other words, you need to be stopped for a legitimate reason, arrested for illegal activity or detained for an unrelated criminal matter by police before they can even begin to claim that they have a reasonable suspicion regarding your immigration status.


While law enforcement can still question you regarding your immigration status based off this unmeasurable “reasonable suspicion” standard when under arrest or stopped, law enforcement cannot do so based off the way you look. They must have a legitimate reason for stopping you. With that being said, you can sue the State alleging racial profiling if you feel that your rights were violated for no legitimate purpose. If you or anyone you know has been charged with a crime, immediately seek an attorney’s help to ensure the accused’s rights are protected. To schedule a no obligation consultation with my office, visit my website at or by calling me at 480-331-7568.

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