“Battle lines over an emotional question. Can police stop you on the street if they think you’re here illegally?”
— Brian Williams, April 23 NBC Nightly News.
“If a stranger walking down the street or riding the bus does not seem to be a US citizen, is it alright for the police to stop and question him? Well, today the Governor of Arizona signed a law that requires police to do just that.”
— Diane Sawyer, ABC’s World News, April 23.
I realized there was a mass of misinformation on Arizona’s new law, but I was only recently confronted with those three quotes side-by-side-by-side. All three network news anchors led with statements that don’t reconcile well with what the law actually says. I would encourage you to read SB1070 for yourself, but here is what the law actually contains:
- Following lawful contact, if officers have reasonable suspicion that a subject is an illegal alien, they should question him about status if practicable
- Race, ethnicity or national origin does not provide reasonable suspicion of illegal presence
- Immigration status must be verified with ICE
- Illegal presence is a state misdemeanor
- State offenders must be turned over to DHS
The law gives more authority to the local police, which creates problems discussed in the last post, but that is the only substantial change in existing immigration law. Even with the changes the federal government is still front and center, requiring the local police to confirm immigration status through ICE and turn offenders over to DHS. Finally, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is still in place to protect from unlawful seizure and arrest without cause. There is an awful lot of high emotion over this and the media is fueling the fire.