Monday, August 12, 2013

CCA-Backed Legislation in Arizona Mowed Down by 4th Circuit

Last brief item of news for today: The Fourth Circuit has determined that police officers in Arizona cannot harass people for immigration papers based solely on their appearance. The Washington Post reports:

On Wednesday, a federal appeals court slapped down Mr. Jenkins and the county sheriff’s department. The appeals court said that law enforcement officers may not go around accosting people merely on the suspicion that they may lack immigration documents, no matter what they look like or how limited their facility with English. As the court pointed out, an individual’s unauthorized presence in the United States is not a crime; it’s a civil violation of immigration law.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, is consistent with last year’s Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s anti-immigrant statute. In that case, the Supreme Court allowed police to determine the immigration status of people they stop or arrest for other reasons. But Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court’s majority, noted it is not a crime for an illegal immigrant to be present in the country. “Detaining individuals solely to verify their immigration status would raise constitutional concerns,” he wrote.

In the case of Ms. Santos, the appeals court pointed out that police who start asking questions based solely on the race or ethnicity of their interlocutor may also run afoul of the Fourth Amendment’s equal protection clause.

A special reason to delight in this outcome is that AB 1070, which provided for this and other abominable maneuvers for monitoring immigration status by state officials, was financially backed by Correctional Corporations of America, who surely expected it to yield more imprisoned bodies to profit from now that the domestic inmate market is dwindling. Today is a good day for justice.

Props to Dorit Reiss for the link.

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