ACLU and Civil Rights Groups File Legal Challenge to Arizona Racial Profiling Law

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Maria Archuleta, ACLU, (212) 519-7808 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org
Alessandra Soler Meetze, ACLU of Arizona, (602) 773-6006 or 418-5499
Laura Rodriguez, MALDEF, (310) 956-2425; lrodriguez@maldef.org
Adela de la Torre, NILC, (213) 674-2832; delatorre@nilc.org
Karin Wang, APALC, (213) 241-0234 or 999-5640; kwang@apalc.org 
Leila McDowell, NAACP, (202) 463-2940 ext. 1021

ACLU and Civil Rights Groups File Legal Challenge to Arizona Racial Profiling Law

PHOENIX - The American Civil Liberties Union and a
coalition of civil rights groups filed a class action lawsuit today in
the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona challenging
Arizona's new law requiring police to demand "papers" from people they
stop who they suspect are not authorized to be in the U.S. The extreme
law, the coalition charged, invites the racial profiling of people of
color, violates the First Amendment and interferes with federal law.

The coalition filing the lawsuit
includes the ACLU, MALDEF, National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), ACLU
of Arizona, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and the
Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) - a member of the Asian
American Center for Advancing Justice.

"Arizona's law is quintessentially
un-American: we are not a 'show me your papers' country, nor one that
believes in subjecting people to harassment, investigation and arrest
simply because others may perceive them as foreign," said Omar Jadwat, a
staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project. "This law
violates the Constitution and interferes with federal law, and we are
confident that we will prevent it from ever taking effect."

The lawsuit charges that the Arizona
law unlawfully interferes with federal power and authority over
immigration matters in violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S.
Constitution; invites racial profiling against people of color by law
enforcement in violation of the equal protection guarantee and
prohibition on unreasonable seizures under the 14th and Fourth
Amendments; and infringes on the free speech rights of day laborers and
others in Arizona.

"This discriminatory law pushes
Arizona into a spiral of fear, increased crime and costly litigation,"
said Victor Viramontes, MALDEF Senior National Counsel. "We expect that
this misguided law will be enjoined before it takes effect."

One of the individuals the coalition
is representing in the case, Jim Shee, is a U.S.-born 70-year-old
American citizen of Spanish and Chinese descent. Shee asserts that he
will be vulnerable to racial profiling under the law, and that, although
the law has not yet gone into effect, he has already been stopped twice
by local law enforcement officers in Arizona and asked to produce his
"papers."

Another plaintiff, Jesus Cuauhtémoc
Villa, is a resident of the state of New Mexico who is currently
attending Arizona State University. The state of New Mexico does not
require proof of U.S. citizenship or immigration status to obtain a
driver's license. Villa does not have a U.S. passport and does not want
to risk losing his birth certificate by carrying it with him. He worries
about traveling in Arizona without a valid form of identification that
would prove his citizenship to police if he is pulled over. If he cannot
supply proof upon demand, Arizona law enforcement is required to arrest
and detain him.

Several prominent law enforcement
groups, including the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, oppose
the law because it diverts limited resources from law enforcement's
primary responsibility of providing protection and promoting public
safety in the community and undermines trust and cooperation between
local police and immigrant communities.

"This ill-conceived law sends a clear
message to communities of color that the authorities are not to be
trusted, making them less likely to come forward as victims of or
witnesses to crime," said Linton Joaquin, General Counsel of NILC.
"Arizona's authorities should not allow public safety to take a back
seat to racial profiling."

"African-Americans know all too well
the insidious effects of racial profiling," said Benjamin Todd Jealous,
President and Chief Executive Officer of the NAACP. "The government
should be preventing police from investigating and detaining people
based on color and accent, not mandating it. Laws that encourage
discrimination have no place in this country anywhere for anyone."

"This extreme law puts Arizona
completely out of step with American values of fairness and equality,"
said Julie Su, Litigation Director of the APALC. "In a state where U.S.
citizens of Japanese descent were interned during World War II, it is
deeply troubling that a law that would mandate lower-class treatment of
people of color, immigrants and others seen to be outsiders would pass
in 2010."

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of
labor, domestic violence, day laborer, human services and social justice
organizations, including Friendly House, Service Employees
International Union (SEIU), SEIU Local 5, United Food and Commercial
Workers International (UFCW), Arizona South Asians for Safe Families
(ASAFSF), Southside Presbyterian Church, Arizona Hispanic Chamber of
Commerce, Asian Chamber of Commerce of Arizona, Border Action Network,
Tonatierra Community Development Institute, Muslim American Society,
Japanese American Citizens League, Valle del Sol, Inc., Coalicíon De
Derechos Humanos, and individual named plaintiffs who will be subject to
harassment or arrest under the law and a class of similarly situated
persons.

"Day laborers have repeatedly
defended their First Amendment rights in federal courts and successfully
established their undeniable right to seek work in public areas," said
Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of NDLON. "Arizona's effort to
criminalize day laborers and migrants is an affront to the Constitution
and threatens to disrupt national unity, and we are confident that
federal courts will intervene to ensure the protection of our bedrock
civil rights."

Even prior to the passage of the
statute, local enforcement of federal immigration law has already caused
rampant racial profiling of Latinos in Arizona, most notably in
Maricopa County. The ACLU, MALDEF and other members of the coalition
have several pending lawsuits against government officials in Arizona
because of civil rights abuses of U.S. citizens and immigrants.

Organizations and attorneys on the
case, Friendly House et al. v. Whiting
et al., include:

  • ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project: Jadwat, Lucas Guttentag,
    Cecillia Wang, Tanaz Moghadam and Harini P. Raghupathi;
  • MALDEF: Viramontes, Tom Saenz, Cynthia Valenzuela Dixon,
    Nina Perales, Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, Gladys Limón and Nicholás
    Espiritu;
  • NILC: Joaquin, Karen C. Tumlin, Nora A. Preciado, Melissa
    S. Keaney, Vivek Mittal and Ghazal Tajmiri;
  • ACLU Foundation of Arizona: Dan Pochoda and Annie Lai;
  • APALC: Su, Ronald Lee, Yungsuhn Park, Connie Choi and
    Carmina Ocampo;
  • NDLON: Chris Newman and Lisa Kung;
  • NAACP: Laura Blackburne;
  • Munger Tolles & Olson LLP: Bradley S. Phillips, Paul
    J. Watford, Elizabeth J. Neubauer,Joseph J. Ybarra, Susan T. Boyd and
    Yuval Miller; and
  • Roush, Mccracken, Guerrero,
    Miller & Ortega: Daniel R. Ortega, Jr.

The complaint can be found at: www.aclu.org/immigrants-rights-racial-justice/friendly-house-et-al-v-whiting-complaint

More information about the Arizona
law, including an ACLU video and slide show, can be found at: www.aclu.org/what-happens-arizona-stops-arizona

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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