Paper Chase

According to an Arizona lawyer, a federal judge has upheld the most controversial aspect of Arizona’s already-controversial immigration law, the provision which allows law enforcement officials to question the immigration status of individuals who have been stopped for other reasons (such as speeding). The provision, which is known by detractors as the “show-me-your-papers” provision, has come under fire because of its obvious potential for civil rights violations and racial profiling.

I feel conflicted about this one. On the one hand, I do think that states should be given a wide latitude to come up with measures which allow them to more effectively enforce their laws (because, after all, a law is only a law insofar as it can be put into effect). On the other hand, in my experience, law enforcement officials frequently overstep the boundaries of their authority, and a provision such as this which essentially gives them carte blanche to inspect individuals’ immigration status (and which will clearly only be directed at racial minorities) has a serious potential for abuse. Ultimately, I probably have to come down against this, in terms of preference, while acknowledging that the federal judge probably made the correct ruling. Now, if there is evidence of systematic abuse of this system in a few years, I think a civil rights lawsuit could justifiably be filed to try and end discriminatory practices.

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