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Advocates, Arizona settle federal lawsuit over SB1070

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Advocates, Arizona settle federal lawsuit over SB1070

  • Protesters stand in front of Tucson police headquarters during a 2014 protest over the SB 1070-related arrest of an immigrant in the country illegally.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comProtesters stand in front of Tucson police headquarters during a 2014 protest over the SB 1070-related arrest of an immigrant in the country illegally.

After a six-year fight, the toughest parts of Arizona's controversial immigration enforcement law, known as SB 1070, have been blocked as part of an agreement between advocates and state officials.  

The agreement, which was submitted for review by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton on Thursday afternoon, sets narrow guidelines for how the remainder of the state's law can be enforced by police officers and ends the lawsuit led by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, and the National Immigration Law Center, which eventually landed in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012. 

In June 2012, the court invalidated most of the law's provisions, but left in place a section that allowed police officers to check the immigration status of arrestees, saying that the implementation of the law should be reviewed by state courts. 

The agreement includes an opinion issued by the state's Attorney General's Office that dictates how police officers can enforce the remaining provisions. Officers cannot use race or ethnicity as the basis for reasonable suspicion that someone is unlawfully present in the United States, they cannot stop people solely to conduct immigration investigations, and they cannot hold people beyond the time necessary solely to investigate immigration status. 

"Officers shall not prolong a stop, detention or arrest solely for the purpose of verifying immigration status,” wrote state officials. "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 description." 

The AG's Office also wrote that officers can also consider other factors such as "call load, staffing, emergencies, and other present duties" as part of their discretion to pursue an investigation into an person's immigration status. 

If police officers suspect that a person is in the country without authorization, they made contact immigration officials, including U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement and U.S. Border Patrol, "unless doing so would prolong the stop or detention." 

In the event that officers believe a federal criminal immigration crime has taken place, they may wait "a reasonable time" for federal officials, but if ICE or CBP fails to respond, or does not arrive within a reasonable amount of time, officers must release the individual. 

During "consensual contact," officers may ask, but "shall not demand, that an individual produce immigration documents," officials said. 

The agreement eliminates two provisions that were built into SB1070, including one that made it a state crime to knowingly transport or harbor someone in the country without authorization and made it illegal to "encourage or induce" someone to come to the state if they lack authorization. 

The state of Arizona will also pay $1.4 million in attorney's fees to the plaintiffs, which includes nearly a dozen groups including: Valle del Sol, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Service Employees International Union, the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, Southside Presbyterian Church of Tucson, Coalicion de Derechos Humanos, Arizona South Asians for Safe Families, the Asian Chamber of Commerce of Arizona, Border Action Network, the Arizona Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, and Tonatierra Community Development Institute.

Last year, Bolton upheld part of the law, widely known as the "papers, please" provision, arguing that civil rights groups had failed to show that this part of SB1070 would be enforced differently for Hispanics than other "similarly situated persons of other race or ethnicity." 

"This 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," said Omar Jadwat, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project. 

"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," said Jadwat. 

"This phase of the battle against SB 1070 has come to an end but we intend to keep fighting to make sure people’s rights are not violated," said Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, during a press conference in Phoenix. 

Soler noted that the ACLU will continue to monitor how the law is being implemented and said that the organization would work with police departments in the state to "enact policies that limit" the use of the law. 

"We have succeeded by keeping the key provisions of SB 1070 in place,"said Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, in a statement. "Our goal while negotiating this settlement was to find a common sense solution that protects Arizona taxpayers while helping our great state move forward," he said. 

Karen Tumlin, the legal director for the NILC, echoed Soler's comments, saying: "While this important agreement marks an end to a hard-fought legal battle, we will continue to be vigilant to ensure that local law enforcement doesn’t violate these important protection." 

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