American Bar Association

ABA Files Amicus Brief with District Court Opposing Arizona Immigration Law

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The American Bar Association has filed an amicus brief with an Arizona federal court seeking to block enforcement of the state’s new law designed to fight illegal immigration.

The law requires police to seek proof of a person’s immigration status if they have a reasonable suspicion the person is in the country illegally.

ABA President Carolyn B. Lamm acknowledges it is unusual for the ABA to file an amicus brief before a case reaches the appellate level. “It’s an extraordinary step, an extraordinary law and it requires extraordinary action,” Lamm said in a video posted to the ABA website.

The brief (PDF) argues that the federal government has exclusive power over immigration matters, according to an ABA press release. The pre-emption issue is before the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving another Arizona law that penalizes employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens with the revocation or suspension of their business licenses. The U.S. Supreme Court granted cert in the employer case Monday.

The ABA also lists three other reasons to block enforcement of the law. They are:

• By requiring that officers verify immigration status if they have a reasonable suspicion that a person is here unlawfully, the law will increase use of racial profiling.

• By mandating the jailing of suspected undocumented immigrants until their immigration status can be verified, the law will result in unlawful and unreasonable detentions. “The ABA is deeply concerned that these detentions will take place without the basic due process protections and the checks and balances that should be taken for granted under our legal system,” the brief says.

• Arizona will be required to appoint defense counsel for poor individuals detained under the law, increasing the burden on the indigent defense system.

The ABA filed the brief in Friendly House v. Whiting, a lawsuit (PDF) filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of civil rights groups, according to an ACLU press release.

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