Sunday, June 13, 2010

California and Arizona's Laws Compared

It was pointed out to me that California has a law on its books similar to Arizona's new immigration statute.  This was pretty surprising, so I looked it up.  Well . . . they're similar, but only in the broadest sense.

Yeah, both statutes deal with law enforcement investigating a person's citizenship status.  But the California law is far more limited than Arizona's.  It comes nowhere close to handing the state carte blanche to demand documentation, which is the reason Arizona's law is a bad law.

The California law is Cal. Penal Code 834b.  It requires state and local law enforcement agencies to help the INS when a person is arrested.  834b(b)(1) states that "assistance" includes, among other things, demanding documentation of an arrested person's citizenship status if the agency has a reasonable suspicion that the person may be in the US illegally.

Arizona's law is SB1070.  It requires state and local law enforcement to investigate a person's citizenship status when they have come into "lawful contact" with the authorities and the official has a "reasonable suspicion" that the person is violating federal immigration law.

The key is that California's law only applies to people already arrested.  Arizona only -- "only" just doesn't apply here -- it applies any time there is "legal contact."

Gotta hand it to the Arizona legislators -- that is some artful craftsmanship.  "Lawful contact?"  What is not lawful contact?  We've got enough problems with cops harassing people when the law sets a real standard for them to meet--like a public arrest, which requires probable cause.  This isn't even a standard.  This is just open season.

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