‘Papers please' pressure now on law enforcement
As we expected, a federal judge in Arizona this week tossed out an effort to stop enforcement of the so-called “papers please” provision of the state's controversial SB 1070 anti-immigration law.
The U.S. Supreme Court had made it clear — except apparently to the attorneys who sought the new injunction against the measure — that there could be no claim of discrimination until the provision was actually being enforced. Only after that could it be determined if it was being enforced fairly or not.
The high court did say it was suspicious there might end up being unconstitutional racial profiling and discrimination involved in enforcing “papers please” and the justices would be watching it.
This now places the burden of proof that the provision can be enforced fairly on state officials and local law enforcement agencies.
The “papers please” rule requires local police to verify legal residency of any suspect during the course of a proper law enforcement action if they suspect the person is here illegally. If they are here illegally, they would be turned over to federal authorities.
The irony is this is normally already done if the crime is serious enough to require a person to be taken into custody. The new provision in effect extends it to minor infractions that usually just involve a stop and possible citation.
Many illegal residents in our state are from Mexico and the fear among Latinos is that legal residents will also be “profiled” and treated unfairly by overly zealous law officers.
Gov. Jan Brewer says she is aware the eyes of the world are on Arizona and that she is confident the provision will be enforced without discrimination.
Like the courts and civil liberties advocates, we have our doubts. The opportunity for racial profiling is high.
The unfortunate reality is that law enforcement in the nation has a bad record of using minor infractions to check on minorities who are in “the wrong area at the wrong time” and the innocent get caught up with the truly guilty. This opens new opportunities for that to happen in Arizona.
Some may think that is OK, but we do not. Discrimination is never justified.