Damaging Provision of SB 1070 Could Take Effect in a Few Days Without Court Action

PHOENIX, AZ – A coalition of civil rights organizations today asked a federal district court to block implementation of the “show me your papers” provision of SB 1070, Arizona’s racial profiling law, until the court has had time to consider additional legal claims that the law is unconstitutional.

The civil rights organizations’ lawsuit includes evidence and claims that are not present in the federal government’s separate challenge to SB 1070, which was ruled on last month by the U.S. Supreme Court. In its ruling, the Supreme Court struck down three other provisions of SB 1070. The Court noted potential constitutional problems with Section 2(B), the “show me your papers” provision, but did not strike it down based on the evidence and claims that the federal government brought in its case. The Supreme Court noted, however, that other challenges could be brought against the section.

In their motion today, the civil rights groups contend that section 2(B) unlawfully discriminates against Latinos and individuals of Mexican origin. The groups present evidence that legislators who supported the law routinely used false “facts” and discriminatory language, and that they intended Section 2(B) to impose state-wide the racial profiling tactics of Sherriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County. The groups also introduced new evidence demonstrating that Section 2(B) will violate the Fourth Amendment and federal preemption if it is allowed to go into effect. Finally, the groups ask the district court to block a separate provision of SB 1070 creating a state crime for “harboring” undocumented individuals, which the Supreme Court’s recent decision makes clear is unconstitutional.

The request was made on behalf of plaintiffs in Valle del Sol v. Whiting et. al. (formerly known as Friendly House v. Whiting et. al.), a class-action lawsuit challenging SB 1070, which was filed in May 2010.

“The ‘papers provision’ is unconstitutional and the people of Arizona should not be subject to this law for even a single day,” said Victor Viramontes, MALDEF National Senior Counsel. “This law would result in Latinos being illegally arrested and detained across Arizona.”

Police chiefs across the country have long concluded that section 2(B) could not be implemented in a race-neutral manner. Immigration experts agree there is no way to determine immigration status based on external or physical characteristics, and that police will end up using race and ethnicity to decide who is in the country without authorization.

“Our Constitution protects us from state laws that intend to discriminate based on the color of a person’s skin or her or his nationality,” said Karen Tumlin, managing attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. “The district court should block this hateful provision that threatens countless Arizonans’ basic right to live free from fear of harassment or prolonged detention.”

“In a state that’s more than 30 percent Latino, requiring police to act as immigration agents is an invitation to racial profiling on a massive scale” said Omar Jadwat, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Police chiefs know these laws don’t work and we now hope the courts will send that message to the politicians as well.”

The coalition includes MALDEF, NILC, ACLU, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the ACLU of Arizona, as the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the Asian American Justice Center, both members of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, as well as the NAACP. The law firms of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, Altshuler Berzon LLP, and Roush, McCracken, Guerrero, Miller & Ortega are acting as co-counsel in the case.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "law firm of the Latino community," MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund