Arizona Close To Approving Law That Would Charge Undocumented Immigrants With Trespassing

arizonaThe Arizona legislature is only a few steps away from passing a bill, HB 2632, that would allow police to arrest anyone who is in this country illegally and charge them with trespass. The bill, which was approved by the state House yesterday, would also require police to attempt to determine the immigration status of anyone they encounter as part of any “lawful contact,” outlaw the hiring of day laborers off the street, and prohibit anyone from knowingly transporting an undocumented immigrant for any reason. A nearly identical version of the bill was already approved by the Arizona Senate and is awaiting reconciliation with the House version.

If approved, HB 2632 will be the first bill of its type. The East Valley Tribune points out that “federal courts elsewhere have rejected similar laws from other states, saying only Congress can approve laws allowing the arrest of those who entered the country illegally.” However, the bill’s mastermind, state Sen. Russell Pearce (R-Mesa) seems confident that HB 2632 and its Senate counterpart, SB 1070, will be upheld if challenged.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona disagrees. According to them, SB 1070 is downright unconstitutional. The ACLU recently released an analysis that goes through the bill and points out its constitutional flaws, section by section. In a nutshell:

This bill unconstitutionally allows the state of Arizona to regulate immigration by making any non-citizen who has entered the United States without permission guilty of the additional state crime of trespassing. It gives local police officers authority to investigate, detain and arrest people for perceived immigration violations without the benefit of proper training, exacerbating the problem of racial profiling and raising concerns about the prolonged detention of citizens and legal residents.

The ACLU also points out that the provision of the bill which grants police officers authority to conduct warrantless arrests of undocumented immigrants has already been deemed invalid by a decision involving a similar situation in the Ninth Circuit Court. The ACLU warns that the bill “subjects local governments to unreasonable and potentially frivolous litigation by private citizens with an anti-immigrant agenda” who don’t think local officials are complying with the bill.

Coconino County Sheriff Bill Pribil and others law enforcement officials have also slammed the bill. “At this point, I see it interesting on the one hand counties are being eviscerated by the state Legislature when it comes to budget … and yet they continue to find ways for us to spend our precious resources on programs we can’t support,” Pribil told the Arizona Daily Sun. “We’re going to continue to see these types of bills introduced throughout the country until the federal government can get its act together,” Pribil said. “It’s frustrating.”

The Arizona Republic reports that “lawmakers didn’t debate the bill’s merits before endorsing the measure.”