Sheriff Joe: 1, Sanity: 0

“What’s this? Your travel signatures are out-of-date?!?”

Get me the hell outta this state.

I just found out this morning that the Arizona House of Representatives has passed a bill, SB1070, that grants state law enforcement the right to perform spot checks to verify a person’s immigration status during routine encounters with cops, including traffic stops or reporting a crime. Here’s the relevant stuff from this piece of legislation:

1. Requires a reasonable attempt to be made to determine the immigration status of a person during any legitimate contact made by an official or agency of the state or a county, city, town or political subdivision (political subdivision) if reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the U.S.

2. Requires the person’s immigration status to be verified with the federal government pursuant to federal law.

3. Requires an alien unlawfully present in the U.S. who is convicted of a violation of state or local law to be transferred immediately to the custody of ICE or Customs and Border Protection, on discharge from imprisonment or assessment of any fine that is imposed.

4. Allows a law enforcement agency to securely transport an alien who is unlawfully present in the U.S. and who is in the agency’s custody to:

a) a federal facility in this state or
b) any other point of transfer into federal custody that is outside the jurisdiction of the law enforcement agency.

5. Allows a law enforcement officer, without a warrant, to arrest a person if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the U.S.

In other words, if I’m driving down the street, and I make a rolling stop at a stop sign, a cop can pull me over. Based on the Canadian flag on my car (and perhaps a residual Canadian accent in my speech), a cop could ask for my immigration papers. Hell, he could decide I might be an immigrant based primarily on the fact that I’m Asian — and would be within his rights under this legislation to racially profile me. If I’m not carrying my papers on me, because I forgot my wallet (or more realistically, because some people don’t like to carry their immigration papers on their person because it increases the chances of losing it), I could be arrested by the officer and charged with a misdemeanor crime for not having my papers on me. I could be carted off to jail, and potentially have my legal immigration status be put in jeopardy for being charged with a crime. All from a routine traffic stop.

As a legal resident, I am frequently reminded by people at immigration and border security: being in America is not a right, it’s a privilege. And, legal aliens try not to abuse that privilege; we understand that we must remain in compliance with the rules to stay in the country, and many of us do our best to follow the rules to the best of our ability.

But imagine what we’re really talking about here: resident aliens who are legally in the country are now required (by state law) to carry our immigration papers wherever we go — a passport and our I-20 (which is a set of 8.5×11 paper), and if we lose those documents or decide to leave them at home while we go to a movie with friends? We risk being carted off to jail if we’re stopped by a local law enforcement official, and not just by U.S. Border Patrol (who generally don’t set up stops within city limits, making it easier for us to step out to the corner store without bringing our passports).

In addition, this law makes being an undocumented immigrant a state crime — which the New Hampshire supreme court found unconstitutional when a similar law was passed in that state in 2005.

And perhaps even more importantly, local law enforcement are not trained in federal immigration law. In a routine spot check, will they know how to read an I-20 or how to tell that my papers say I’m legally in this country? Will they cart me off to jail while they verify their kneejerk decisions (about my immigration status) with the appropriate federal bureaus?

SB1070 renders Arizona a police state, empowering and elevating Arizona sheriffs to perform the same duties as federal border patrol officers. In essence, this law deputizes Arizona sheriffs as officers of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — albeit, completely untrained and unqualified officers of ICE. This is a law aimed purely at harassing the nation’s legal residents with state-sanctioned racial profiling.

But, at least Sheriff Joe Arpaio is one step closer in his plans for psychotic world domination.

Cute and cuddly would-be overlord.

Psychotic and Orwellian would-be overlord.

Act Now! There’s still (marginal) hope in this issue — let Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona know that she needs to veto this law now. Change.org gives us the ways (I added #2):

Tell Governor Jan Brewer to stand up to Senator Pearce and do what is right for Arizona.

1. Sign this online petition at Change.org

2. Email Governor Brewer with your own email — this link contains her contact information and a form for sending the governor an email.

3. Flood her office with calls: (602) 542-4331

4. Attend a rally on Wednesday, April 14th, 12 PM 1700 W. Washington St. Phoenix, AZ 85007 at the Rear entrance to Governor’s office (note: this post is publishing too late for you to attend this rally.)