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viernes, abril 30, 2010

Arizona Backs Down. Sorta Kinda.

Battered by the media tsunami caused by Arizona's "show us your papers" law and the resulting lawsuits and threats of boycotts, Arizona's legislature today sought cover by seeking to moderate provisions of SB 1070. Are these real changes or are they just cosmetic changes and an effort to save face? It's probably some of each. Put another way, those who oppose the law can know that their outrage is being heard and felt. But the changes don't eliminate the problem, they just provide cover for it.

The Arizona Daily Star reports:

State lawmakers voted late Thursday to repeal one of the more controversial provisions from the new law aimed at illegal immigration....

HB 2162, approved by the House and Senate, changes the law to specify that when deciding whom to question about immigration status, police may not use race, ethnicity or national origin as a factor.

That is a significant change from SB 1070 as it was approved by lawmakers and signed less than a week ago by Gov. Jan Brewer. That version of the law permits police to consider any of those factors when deciding if there is "reasonable suspicion" someone is not in this country legally, as long as it is not the only reason for investigating further.

There's more, of course:

As originally approved, SB 1070 requires police to determine the immigration status of those with whom they have "lawful contact" if there is reasonable suspicion the person is not here legally.

That "reasonable suspicion" language remains. But the language about "contact" is replaced with a reference to "stop, detention or arrest." Paul Senseman, the governor's spokesman, said the changes effectively reduce checking immigration status to "secondary enforcement."

"There have to be other steps, such as another law being broken first," he said, before an officer could, with reasonable suspicion, inquire if a person is a citizen or legal resident.

He compared it to Arizona's seat-belt laws: Police cannot stop a motorist solely because the person is unbuckled. But officers can issue a ticket for failing to buckle up if the driver is stopped for some other reason.

Join me in Nogales.

So there are two changes in the new law, HB 2162. Under the first, the cops aren't allowed to use race, ethnicity or national origin as a factor in deciding whether somebody should be approached while waiting for a bus, for example. Under the second, the cops aren't allowed to ask anybody about their immigration status unless the person is first a subject of a legal stop, detention or arrest.

Effectively, that means that the new law, if signed by the Governor and followed by the police, will at least nominally stop the spectre of police approaching people who are doing nothing illegal and asking them to produce their papers. Cops will not be able to go up to people waiting at Tucson bus stops and after sizing up their shoes, or shirt, or hat, or newspaper ask them for papers. To do that, cops will first legally have to stop, detain or arrest the person. Once that threshold has been met, the immigration questions and demands for documents will ensue.

This doesn't mean what whacko Arizona legislators now understand the constitutional rights of people within the state's borders. Far from it. Look at this discussion of the provision eliminating race, ethnicity or national origin as a factor in deciding whether to approach someone:

Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, defended the original provision as being relevant, saying 90 percent of those in this country illegally are from Mexico and points south....

What the change does, Pearce said, is remove a target for foes, both those in court and those criticizing the measure in speeches and demonstrations.

"I'm just tired of the games played by the left," he said. Pearce said making the change and leaving pretty much everything else the same "strengthens the bill's ability of being enforced without letting the left leverage bad stuff."

Nice. Unconstitutionality is now the equivalent of "bad stuff" the "left leverage[s]." But Pearce, and I suppose other Arizona legislators remain unrepentant:

Pearce said he doesn't believe either change will make it harder for an officer to question someone who is suspected of being an illegal immigrant. "The reason we made these clarifications is to make it a stronger case in court," he said. "This is a tough bill. We didn't water it down."

Put another way, the legislators have called up a dog whistle to the cops. And statutory language be damned, they know what to do.

I'm not calling off my boycott.

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