Free Markets, Free People
Arizona makes some changes to its controversial immigration law
Byron York reports that the Arizona Legislature and the Governor have made a few “tweaks” to address some of the fears of critics and more specifically define the law.
The first concerns the phrase “lawful contact,” which is contained in this controversial portion of the bill: “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency…where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person…” Although drafters of the law said the intent of “lawful contact” was to specify situations in which police have stopped someone because he or she was suspected of violating some other law — like a traffic stop — critics said it would allow cops to pick anyone out of a crowd and “demand their papers.”
So now, in response to those critics, lawmakers have removed “lawful contact” from the bill and replaced it with “lawful stop, detention or arrest.” In an explanatory note, lawmakers added that the change “stipulates that a lawful stop, detention or arrest must be in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state.”
The law now stipulates specifically that unless the officer is first involved in a “lawful stop, detention or arrest” that officer cannot just demand papers based on a suspicion the person is there illegally.
The second change concerns the word “solely.” In a safeguard against racial profiling, the law contained the phrase, “The attorney general or county attorney shall not investigate complaints that are based solely on race, color or national origin.” Critics objected to that, too, arguing again that it would not prevent but instead lead to racial profiling. So lawmakers have taken out the word “solely.”
Whether it will satisfy the critics is, frankly, doubtful. It has been “politicized” now and that means that those who oppose it will most likely ignore, minimize or mischaracterize the changes in an effort to keep the issue alive. There’s a whole movement at stake here and the race warlords are most likely unwilling to give it up this easily. Additionally, those who want to see some sort of immigration reform law pushed through see this as giving the issue renewed visibility. They’re unlikely to let that go, even if the law is indeed more satisfactory in terms of protecting civil rights than in its previous iteration.