Anticipating at least a partial Supreme Court victory, Gov. Jan Brewer on Tuesday updated her directive on how police in Arizona must be trained to implement the 2010 state law aimed at illegal immigrants.
Press aide Matthew Benson said his boss anticipates the “heart” of SB 1070 will be found legal by the justices. That section requires police to make an effort to check the immigration status of those they have stopped if there is reasonable suspicion the person is in this country illegally.
But Benson said it is possible that the justices, in giving the go-ahead for enforcement, may provide some “guidance” on how that law should be implemented so as not to infringe on the rights of minorities.
That issue of possible discrimination was raised by U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli when he asked the high court in April to uphold the injunction a trial judge had issued nearly two years ago blocking enforcement of key provisions of the law.
But the justices noted that the Obama administration was arguing the Arizona law as written is preempted by federal statutes and not based on any evidence of discrimination, especially since key sections of SB 1070 have never been enforced because of an injunction. But that leaves the door open for a new claim if the law does take effect and if there are allegations that individual rights are being violated.
Benson said the renewed training order is designed to keep that from happening.
Most immediately, it requires the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board to redistribute a video prepared after Brewer signed SB 1070 — but before it was blocked — explaining the law to the officers who will be enforcing it.
Benson said this includes an explanation of what documents police can use to determine whether the person they have stopped can be presumed to be in this country legally.
What it also requires is “clear guidance to law enforcement officials regarding what constitutes reasonable suspicion” allowing someone to be questioned.
The issue of detaining someone arose during April’s court hearing amid questions of whether such stops to check someone’s immigration status might violate their right to be free from arrest without cause. Attorney Paul Clement, hired by Brewer to present the state’s case to the Supreme Court, said such checks normally take only about 10 minutes; Verrilli said that’s true — after someone has been on hold for an hour, making such stops unlawful.
And the training, reflecting a change made in the law after it was originally enacted, is designed to spell out that an individual’s race, color or national origin alone cannot be the grounds to question someone. It can, however, be one factor.
A ruling is expected by the end of the month. But unless the court voids the entire law, it is not likely to be the last word — and not only because of possible future challenges by the Department of Justice based on how it is being enforced. Several other groups have cases pending before U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton which raise different constitutional issues.