Today, the Independent Women’s Forum hosted a panel at Georgetown Law School entitled “The Situation in Arizona, The New Immigration Law, And Its National Implications.” At one point during the panel, in the middle of a discussion about what constitutes “reasonable suspicion,” Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh (R) admitted that “barring” a case in which someone is in an “orange jump suit” who is sneaking across the border tries to run away from the police, it’s nearly impossible to establish obvious “reasonable suspicion” that someone is in the country illegally. However, Kavanagh insisted that Arizona’s immigration law, SB-1070, will not lead to racial profiling by suggesting that even he or fellow panelist Tamar Jacoby of ImmigrationWorks USA could be pulled over and questioned about their immigration status.:
KAVANAGH: Multiple facts. A Police officer will look at multiple facts [to establish reasonable suspicion]. They’ll question the person. They’ll get inconsistent answers. The person will get caught in lies. It’s a slow process of questioning an individual or making observations.
JACOBY: — And am I ever going to get questioned? Are you ever going to get questioned? People who look like us?
Essentially, Kavanagh is suggesting that anyone who is pulled over for speeding or a broken tail light should be prepared to prove that they are legally present in the U.S. Chances are that the 52 percent of Arizonans who support SB-1070 wouldn’t be if they thought they might become accidental targets of it. It’s also likely that, despite Kavanagh’s claim of equal treatment, most white-skinned Americans probably won’t have to worry about being interrogated about their citizenship status — even if they forget their license or other form of identification at home.
Though SB-1070 prohibits racial profiling, it doesn’t provide any details on the criteria that police should use to establish reasonable suspicion. Its architect Kris Kobach, however, has made a training video in the past outlining the factors that may lead to “reasonable suspicion.” Those factors include speaking “English poorly,” “indications from dress or appearance of the person that he is an illegal alien,” or the evidence that the “individual appears to be in transit or traveled a significant distance.” According to Kobach, reasonable suspicion must be based on the “totality of the circumstances,” which he translates to mean that officers must simply “rely on more than one” factor.
The Wonk Room also asked Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu on the criteria that he will instruct his officers to use when establishing “reasonable suspicion” that someone is undocumented. Though Babeu’s answer was vague, he did give his word that having accent, at least in Pinal County, will not be used against someone who is pulled over for a traffic violation.