In the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, a group of immigrant and civil rights activists is calling for Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange to set out guidelines for constitutional enforcement of Alabama’s own anti-immigrant law and to collect and release data on traffic stops.
“That ruling, which struck down portions of the Arizona law, dealt a substantial blow to the anti-immigrant efforts in Arizona and in other states as well,” Southern Poverty Law Center Legal Director Mary Bauer said in a conference call Monday. She was joined by Karen Tumlin, managing attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, and by Cecillia Wang, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights project.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down three out of four challenged provisions in the Arizona anti-immigrant law, which is known as SB1070. In the opinion, the justices allowed “stop and check” provision of the law to go into effect in Arizona—that provision, which allows officers to make a “reasonable attempt [...] to verify the immigration status” of someone they stop or detain, is worded much like a similar provision in Alabama’s anti-immigrant law and which has already gone into effect. But the court put some restrictions on how the Arizona stop and check provision might be enforced.
“Detaining individuals solely to verify their immigration status would raise constitutional concerns,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the opinion. But the court also agreed that it could, perhaps, be enforced in a way that was not unconstitutional.
“However, in their ruling upholding this portion of the Arizona law for now, the Supreme Court expressly expressed concerns about how this law might be implemented and indicated that the way that it could be enforced could raise serious constitutional concerns. Sadly, we in Alabama already know these concerns are valid.”
According to Bauer, SPLC has received “dozens” of reports from those who believe they’ve been victims of racial profiling due the Alabama law, including one from a woman who was told she was stopped because she was Hispanic, and from others who say they were stopped and given no reason for the stop, but were asked questions regarding their immigration status. The letter cites six specific incidents and mentions several others.
According to SPLC legal director Mary Bauer, the letter demands “that the attorney general immediately provide guidance to law enforcement across the state to ensure that Alabama’s law is implemented within the guidelines set out in the Supreme Court’s decision.”
“These detentions clearly contravene the Supreme Court opinion in Arizona v. United States,” the letter says. “It is incumbent upon you to ensure that these kinds of illegal stops and detentions end. And the public deserves to know what steps the state will take to assure that these abuses will not continue.”
The letter also requested that the attorney general begin collecting data on stops and make that data available for review. That data could be used to determine what reasons officers are giving for pulling people over or checking their immigration statuses.
UPDATED 5pm: Strange told Weld in an e-mail that Alabama’s “well-trained” and professional law officers will adhere to the law. “Racial profiling is not, and will not be tolerated in Alabama, and our law enforcement agencies adhere to strict guidelines that prohibit racial profiling,” Strange said. “This office has worked closely with law enforcement in their development of training for all officers through the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission and other agencies, and we will continue to do so as needed.”
070212_SPLC Letter Luther Strange