LA Times: "Arizona's once-feared immigration law, SB 1070, loses most of its power in settlement"

by Joseph McKeown

Arizona has announced an end to its practice of requiring police officers to demand the identification documents of people suspected of being in the country without legal documentation. The announcement is part of a settlement between the State of Arizona and the National Immigration Law Center and other immigrants’ rights groups that sued six years ago just after passage of the controversial Senate Bill (SB) 1070.  

This decision concedes a key point of arguably one of the nation’s most aggressive immigration bills, Arizona’s SB 1070, formally titled the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act,” signed by then-Governor Jan Brewer in April 2010. This bill was an “omnibus of Arizona anti-immigration measures, collecting a decade’s worth of fears of Mexican drug cartels, competition for jobs and the state’s rapidly expanding Latino population into one piece of legislation.”

Specifically, SB 1070 contained elements designed to decrease the number of undocumented immigrants in the state by compelling police to ask for identification and permitting officers to make arrests without a warrant if the officer believed the individual had committed an offense that made them deportable. The law also made it a crime to fail to carry registration papers and for undocumented immigrants to solicit work.     

As part of the settlement, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an informal opinion instructing police officers to “ignore the provision in the law that requires them to investigate a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that a person is in the country" without proper documentation, which immigrants’ rights groups warned would lead to racial profiling. “Officers shall not prolong a stop, detention or arrest solely for the purpose of verifying immigration status,” Brnovich wrote. “Officers shall not contact, stop, detain or arrest an individual based on race, color, or national origin, except when it is part of a suspect description.” Additionally, Brnovich issued a statement assuring Arizonans that elements of SB 1070 would remain valid. “We have succeeded by keeping the key provisions of SB 1070 in place,” Brnovich says. “Our goal while negotiating this settlement was to find a common-sense solution that protects Arizona taxpayers while helping our great state move forward.”

Immigration advocates are claiming the settlement as a win for immigrant rights. “For the very first time since May 2010, there will be clarity to every law enforcement officer in the state that the only way to follow SB 1070 is to make sure no one is detained on their immigration status alone,” Karen Tumlin, legal director of the National Immigration Law Center, tells the Los Angeles Times.

This SB 1070 settlement comes as a group of advocacy organizations is filing a new federal lawsuit claiming that those who qualify for Arizona driver’s licenses have been illegally denied the chance to obtain them. This latest suit comes less than two years after a federal judge forced the state to grant driver’s licenses to recipients of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Then-Gov. Jan Brewer had issued a directive banning them from getting licenses, claiming the decision grew out of “liability concerns and the desire to reduce the risk of the licenses being used to improperly access public benefits.” Victor Viramontes, an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, one of the groups filing the lawsuit, says the state should have allowed all deferred action recipients to get licenses following the federal court ruling. “They should have stopped discriminating the minute this policy was declared unconstitutional, but they keep doing it,” he tells CBS News.