The NAACP in coalition with other civil rights groups filed a class action lawsuit this week 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. If an individual is caught without papers they can be arrested and jailed. The extreme law, the coalition charged, invites the racial profiling of people of color, violates the First Amendment and interferes with federal law.
“We are joining this lawsuit because the Arizona law is out of step with American values of fairness and equality. It encourages racial profiling and is unconstitutional. 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.”
“Subjecting human beings to discrimination and punishment based upon race and accent is morally offensive, unconstitutional and un-American, said Wilbert Nelson, the president of the NAACP Arizona state conference “We will fight vigorously to make sure this poisonous law never takes effect. It is part of a menacing return to racial discrimination and the beginning of a slippery slope. Right after this hate law was passed, a statute banning the ethnic studies in our school was passed. “
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 profi ling against people of color by law enforcement in violation of the equal protection guarantee and prohibition on unreasonable seizures under the Fourteenth and Fourth Amendments; and infringes on the free speech rights of day laborers in violation of the First Amendment. A number of other states are considering similar laws.
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.
“As a former police officer, many of us in law enforcement want to ensure that the resources of the police are put into fighting serious crime and not turn them into federal immigration agents,” said Reverend Oscar Tillman, president of the Maricopa County Branch (Phoenix, Arizona). “It can jeopardize security when victims or witnesses to crime are afraid to talk to police because they might be targeted by this law.”
The NAACP, the nation’s largest civil rights organization will not host any events in the state and is calling for direct action against the law and will urge MLB to move 2011 All Star Game.