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Immigration Reform 2016: Changes in Arizona's SB 1070 Enforcement Explained for Dummies; Lawsuit Ends with Urge for Police Reform and Timeline of the Controversial Law

First Posted: Sep 16, 2016 08:22 PM EDT
Vigil Held At San Francisco's City Hall As U.S. Supreme Court Argues Arizona's SB1070 Law

Vigil Held At San Francisco's City Hall As U.S. Supreme Court Argues Arizona's SB1070 Law(Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments On Arizona Immigration Law

Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments On Arizona Immigration Law(Photo : Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The six-year legal battle over Arizona Senate Bill 1070 ended Thursday as a coalition of immigration rights groups and the state attorney general's office reached a deal restricting the bill's two remaining controversial elements.

Plaintiffs in the case - led by the National Immigration Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund - agreed to drop their appeal of a 2015 ruling that found nothing illegal with police officers verifying an individual's immigration status.

At the time, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton said the law was racially neutral because there are ways of enforcing it without singling out minorities.

In return, Arizona Atty. Gen. Mark Brnovich said law enforcement will be discouraged from demanding proof of residency from people suspected of being in the country illegally. The agreement also bills the state $1.4 million in attorneys' fees for the plaintiffs.

"Officers shall not prolong a stop, detention or arrest solely for the purpose of verifying immigration status," Brnovich wrote in his informal opinion. "Officers shall not contact, stop, detain or arrest an individual based on race, color, or national origin, except when it is part of a suspect descriptions."

Brnovich issued a statement late Thursday assuring residents that the state "succeeded by keeping the key provisions of SB 1070 in place."

Changes in SB 1070 Enforcement Explained for Dummies**

Simply speaking what this seems to mean is that law enforcement will not be able to stop and demand proof of immigration status on the grounds of suspicion, race, color or national origin. Meaning they should not be able to stop anyone simply to check on their immigration papers. They will, however, be able to stop someone based on "reasonable suspicion" but they may not "prolong a stop, detention or arrest solely for the purpose of verifying immigration status". Based on the Arizona's Atty. General's informal opinion-document, "reasonsable suspicion" is defined as:

Specific facts which taken together with rational inferencesfrom those facts support an objective belief that an individual has committed or is about to commit an offense; based upon the factsthat exist, there isreason to investigate further. An officer may stop or briefly detain an individual for further investigation based on reasonable suspicion (a Terry stop), but may not arrest on that basis alone. 

Officers are not required to ask for papers, but may do so if they don't have backup, are understaffed, or if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is unavailable. It also means they will not be allowed to detain subjects longer than necessary. Officers cannot wait for ICE's response, just like suspects cannot be held without probable cause.

Every criminal provision of SB 1070 challenged since 2010 has been blocked.  

"The last step in the SB 1070 litigation makes it clear that what the legislature intended - and much of the immigration enforcement that police in Arizona previously engaged in - is unlawful," Omar Jadwat, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, said in a press release. "The Attorney General's legal opinion makes it clear that no one can be detained based on suspected immigration status, and no one can be targeted because of their race.

Jadwat added, "Officers who do not pay scrupulous attention to the limits of their authority will be held accountable, just as Sheriff (Joe) Arpaio has been held accountable."

A Timeline of Arizona's Controversial Law

April 2010 - A revised version of SB 1070 passes both the House and state Senate. Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, who replaced Democrat Janet Napolitano after she joined the Obama administration, signed the bill into legislation April 23.

Going forward, it would be a crime if an undocumented individual did not carry registration papers. Police would be allowed to arrest someone without a warrant if they believed, not necessarily with proof, that the person committed a crime, among other restrictive measures.

The law is met with praise and contempt. President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were among its opponents who saw it misguided and infringed upon civil rights. Sheriff Arpaio - self-described as the "toughest sheriff in America" - was among SB 1070 most ardent supporters and made catching undocumented immigrants a priority.

May 1, 2010 - Protesters celebrate International Workers' Day by launching protests nationwide. Demonstrations from Milwaukee to Los Angeles draw tens of thousands of people, many which waved Mexican flags and changed "Si se puede."

Cancelled conventions and rumored boycotts from business owners, athletes, and musicians over the next few months curtailed the state's economy. A November 2010 report from the left-leaning Center for American Progress found Arizona lost $141 million in tourism revenue, including $45 million in lodging.

May 17, 2010 - A joint class action lawsuit, Friendly House et al v. Whiting, charges that SB 1070 violates multiple civil rights, including the Equal Protection Clause under the Fourteenth Amendment and freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.

The ACLU and MALDEF are named as plaintiffs.

June 28, 2010 - Judge Bolton blocks SB 1070's more incendiary measures, like law enforcement's right to check one's immigration status. She did not rule on six other challenges issued by the U.S. Justice Department and various immigration groups.

Arizona promptly appeals, setting up a meeting with the U.S. Supreme Court.

July 6, 2010 - The U.S. Department of Justice files its own lawsuit, arguing that SB 1070 interferes with federal government regulations.

Bolton overhead this case as well and issued a preliminary injunction prevention four parts of the law from taking effect. This too, would be challenged by the state.

March 3, 2011 - North Carolina becomes the 16th state to introduce Arizona-like anti-immigration laws. Like Arizona, the "willful failure to complete or carry an alien registration document" would be a crime.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed it into law on May 13, as did Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley on June 9. Alabama's "show me your papers" law made it a crime to be in the state without documentation. Schools were required to investigate the citizenship status of students, and all state business were required to enroll in E-verify.

By the time South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed similar legislations on June 27, copycat bills in other states had either been defeated or faced litigation. Virginia and Kansas considered joining, but after watching the widespread backlash chose to distance themselves.

Almost every enacted law has been overturned.

June 25, 2012 - Presiding over the DOJ case, the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down three key provisions.

In a 5-3 ruling, the court rejected the following provisions: making it a criminal offense for undocumented immigrants to hold a job, requiring all immigrants to carry registration papers, and allowing police to arrest suspected immigrants without warrants. They allow one requiring police to check a person's legal status.

Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer agreed. Justice Antoni Scalia, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas dissented.

"What I do fear - and what Arizona and the States that support it fear - is that 'federal policies' of nonenforcement will leave the States helpless before those evil effects of illegal immigration," Scalia wrote. "Arizona bears the brunt of the country's illegal immigration problem."

The Obama administration and Brewer each claim victory.

May 30, 2014 - The DOJ drops its fight to void the "papers, please" provision. Arizona agrees to stop enforcing a provision that allows police to arrest someone for transporting or harboring undocumented individuals.

Arizona lawmakers still have not publically discussed challenging other defunct provisions, like those making it a crime for motorists to hire day laborers.

Sept. 16, 2016 - The Friendly House et al v. Whiting suit comes to an end as two remaining clauses are nullified.

**We used the term "Dummies" for the sole purpose of categorizing people who may not be well acquainted or familiar with legal or technical verbiage. 

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