The City of Portland Human Rights Commission strongly condemns the passing of SB1070 signed into law in Arizona on April 23, 2010. This bill gives Arizona law enforcement license to stop citizens and non-citizens to check their immigration status based simply on “reasonable suspicion” that individuals are in the country without proper documentation. Subsequently, the law opens the door to open ended discrimination given that there are no concrete guidelines for what “reasonable suspicion” means and this is open to varied interpretation by any law enforcement official.
The fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution states in part that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause….” According to the Supreme Court decision in Johnson v. United States, the fourth amendment requires for standards of probable cause for an arrest and search that "the facts and circumstances within their knowledge and of which they had reasonably trustworthy information" would lead a prudent person to believe that the arrested person had committed or was committing a crime. Therefore, probable cause to arrest must exist before the arrest is made.
In addition, Article Seven of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in part that “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.” And although this does not have the affect of law or a treaty, many international lawyers believe that the Amendments in the Declaration form a part of customary international law.
Therefore, under this new Arizona law, the only probable cause that a law enforcement official needs to think that a person may not have proper documentation is subjective. In other words, from here on out in Arizona you are potentially suspicious simply by being Latino….or for that matter, Asian, African or Middle Eastern. Consequently, the Arizona law is not only potentially unconstitutional and therefore illegal, but in addition under international law, immoral and potentially illegal as well.
Let us be clear on the real motivating factors behind this legislation - the central issue in Arizona in regards to this new law is not about immigration per se - it is about the Arizona legislature's extremely inappropriate response to recent issues related to public safety and the drug trade from the United States’ neighbor to the immediate south, as the type of killings and safety of law abiding citizens has recently been abridged by spilling into Arizona. Immigration, as a result of both public misperception and frankly - prejudice - has become the scapegoat public policy issue in which this law has been framed. It is not only unfortunate on a human level, but it is inaccurate on a policy level.
The Human Rights Commission calls upon our community to do two things: (a) honestly and comprehensively address the issues within our southern western states in relation to the public safety of all that are being affected by violence from the drug trade with our southern neighbor; and (b) finally come together to enact comprehensive immigration legislation reform at the national level that is humane, lawful, and economically sound.
God bless us all in this collective effort for we have a lot of work to do.