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"Papers please"? No thanks.

Yesterday, the ACLU announced that it would join a number of other civil rights organizations in challenging Arizona's harsh new law. Though the measure purportedly targets only undocumented immigrants, it actually turns Arizona into a police state where everyone must carry their “papers” at all times or risk arrest.  You may have caught coverage of the press conference we did when the Arizona law was first signed.  Even though we at the ACLU have become accustomed to seeing egregious pieces of legislation, this Arizona law stands out as a virtual “greatest hits” of proposals to curtail due process and invite racial profiling.

The Arizona law makes immigration violations a crime under state law (even though they are civil violations under federal law) and requires law enforcement officials to investigate the immigration status of every person whom they have reasonable suspicion to believe is in the country unlawfully.  People who cannot prove that they are in the country legally can be arrested without a warrant, regardless of their actual immigration or citizenship status.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Like many others, we have grave concerns about this law.  Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell by looking at someone whether or not they’re undocumented—and local cops don’t have any specialized training to figure out an individual’s legal status (a devilishly difficult task even for trained federal immigration officials).  The fallback will be that officers substitute their own biases—leading to many people being stopped and forced to prove their citizenship simply because they look or sound “foreign.”

The law will also hinder effective law enforcement by diverting scarce police resources towards immigration enforcement rather than combating criminal activity, and by discouraging crime victims and witnesses—especially minorities—from calling the police for fear of being questioned about their immigration status.  Many police agencies oppose this kind of law for exactly this reason—it undermines their ability to protect the communities they serve.

As you can imagine, the list of constitutional issues with the law is longer than my arm.  It improperly interferes with federal immigration law, violates the free speech rights of day laborers and others seeking work in public, and denies the many likely victims of racial profiling their constitutional rights to equal protection of the law and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.  Hence the ACLU lawsuit. Also yesterday, the Seattle City Council voted to condemn the Arizona law—a positive step.

In the wake of the recent police beating of an innocent Latino man in Seattle (see our statement on the incident), we should be doubly vigilant when looking at laws like this.  The Seattle incident proves that it just takes the wrong person tasked with enforcement for things to go south quickly.  Gang laws proposed in the state legislature are cut from the same cloth—taking away due process based on looking the wrong way or hanging out with the wrong people.

And although we’re lucky not to have seen Arizona-style legislation here so far, let’s not kid ourselves—it could happen here.  We’ve seen our share of legislative efforts targeting immigrants that would have the same kinds of negative effects.  Now it’s up to us to reject such efforts in order to ensure that we honor our commitment to civil liberties—and to make sure that what happens in Arizona stops in Arizona.


Why are people soo upset. Arizona is only bringing to public eye a federal law (and international laws). No civil rights are being violsted here. Question to all.. What happens if you go to another country illegally? In many countries. The least that could happen to you would be put into prison. There are a couple where you could be immediately be put to death. Anyone who doesn't believe me. Try it. Like Iran, North Korea, China, Africa, Russia, etc for examples. Then come back here. You will have a change of attitude.
No matter what country you go to. At anytime you could be asked to see either proof of residency. Or papers showing you are allowed to be in the country. So, why complain and be upset. There is no legal, moral or civil laws being broken. It's time to wake up and smell the flowers. Note- Goverments spend billions of our tax dollars every year. Dealing with illegal immigration and cases which are set out to destroy this country. So, WAKE UP and SUPPORT Arizona and the LAWS of this land.

illegal immigrants

Oh! ACLU, it is okay in Arlington, VA to go to MacDonalds(Crystal City) and Pizza Hut(Glebe Road) and condone that all employees are HISPANIC from the Manager to the servers. Well, I call that reverse discrimination. Don't you? I have to repeat myself three or four times to place an order that requires additional hot fudge sauce for my ice cream because they do not speak ENGLISH. Gee, do you think maybe Illegal Immigrants steal SSN's off of dead Americans and other fradulent SSN's using fake green papers and that list goes on. How many dependents do illegals claim on their stolen SSN numbers to avoid paying taxes. NO, they don't pay taxes and when they get caught they just move on to another job. There is the 62% ILLEGAL immigrants who work under the table and do not pay any taxes. Illegals cost the American Taxpayer over $120 BILLION dollars a year local, state, and federal government which include, education (over crowding putting our legal children in trailer classrooms), hospital EMERGENCY ROOMS, public assistance and section 8 for anchor babies, nursing homes paid for by MEDICAID, SSI, Welfare.Public Defenders, court costs, burden on law enforcement, Fire Departments and that list goes on and on. Americans are picking up the 14 billon tab this year for WIC (women infants,and children which include ANCHOR BABIES and 77% of the Hispanic babies (over one million this year)are born to girls ages 10 thru 19. Statistics show that age group will have a 50% chance that one of their children will go to prison. I show my ID ALL THE TIME AND DO NOT YELL DICRIMINATION. Lastly, Hispanic pop. in US is 12.5 per cent. In the state and federal prisons over 20% are from Mexico and Central America (19% Mexican Citizenship)See DOJ statistics it is available for all to see. Do the math yourself White pop. 75% 2.7 million births in the US. Black pop. 12.3% pop. 665,000 births in the US. Hispanic pop. 12.5% over ONE MILLION births in the US (2008) CDC. In additon, only 2% of immigrant crop workers are needed to work in the agriculture sector. How many of those 2% do not pay their fair share of taxes? No work, no government assistance equals self-deport for peope who break the law and demand their rights who are not here LEGALLY. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH wake up and smell the coffee.

ACLU is wrong on this issue!

As a member of the ACLU for 37 years, I was appalled to see ACLU publicly oppose the new Arizona law regarding illegal immigrants. Shankar Narayan’s statements in "“Papers Please”? No thanks", contain many erroneous and speculative statements about the law. Mr. Narayan and ACLU’s public position does not represent my views as an ACLU member and I suspect many other members as well.

Though the Arizona law may have some flaws, it is by and large, a fair and reasonable effort to enforce existing law when the federal government, and many state and local governments refuse to do so. Arizona should be applauded, not condemned, for their efforts. Mr. Narayan’s wild speculation about how the law may be used, and his participation in a news conference with radical supporters of illegal immigration is inexcusable. And Mr. Narayan, federal law, not the Arizona law, REQUIRES legal aliens to carry their "green card" at all times and show it whenever requested by any law enforcement officer.

The ACLU exists to insure that all are treated equally under the law. Fairness, equity, and the rule of law are fundamental to the American way. By opposing the Arizona law, and other similar efforts to enforce existing immigration law, ACLU undermines these principles and implicitly sides with radical open border advocates that are openly contemptuous of our laws and national sovereignty. You do not have my support to take such a stand.

I remember well when the ACLU supported the American Nazi party in their efforts to march through the streets of Skokie Illinois. Nationally, ACLU probably lost a third of its membership over this issue. I supported the organization’s stand at the time, understanding the fundamental first amendment issues. Please tell me the fundamental constitutional principles being fought for with this issue.

Please explain to me the organization’s logic in opposing the enforcement of existing immigration law. What constitutional principles are the ACLU upholding by siding with open border lunatics who would give full citizenship rights to anyone who happened to be here by any means and circumstance? By what right do illegal immigrants compete for scarce jobs with American citizens? How fair is it to legal immigrants to grant the same benefits of legal residence to those who knowingly and intentionally broke many laws?

Paul Gaskill

ACLU is definitely wrong on

ACLU is definitely wrong on this issue... anyone that is pissed about the illegal immigration thing, and about Arizona's law is because they themselves are illegally here in the USA or they have family illegally here...


Thank you for supporting those who are the most vulnerable.

Mr. Narayan:
I had the great pleasure, to be a part of the bpfree organization, and find this Arizona law offensive on every front. With the death of Benjamin Roldan Salinas in the Forks area due to the USFS and Border Patrol garish tactics, I hope the ACLU is moving forward with an aggressive assertive response. The issues are not race, color nor citizenship any longer, it is about the value of human life.

License Please

Let's see, as an American I need to have my license if I am pulled over, if I don't have it I risk a ticket or arrest along with higher costs to operate my private property.
Is the ACLU saying it's okay for illegals to not suffer the same consequences?
As an American male teenager I was targeted by police because of my gender and age which is profiling. They still target young males because of statistics.
Is the ACLU saying they think being asked for a license (papers) makes illegals feel as if they are profiled getting stopped for a traffic violation? If anyone commits a traffic violation they should be asked for proof that they can drive, it isn't a right, but a privilege.
As An American male many times I was walking the streets with my friends at night and because I was a teenager, 18 or older also, I was asked by police to produce ID.
Is the ACLU saying it's okay if someone that doesn't look "typical American" police shouldn't be able to ask for ID?
Sorry ACLU, the facts don't make an argument for only illegal or non illegal not to be asked for ID. All men are created equal and no law should only be for illegal immigrants. In my mind the ACLU stands for denying US Citizens the equal protection of the laws. If it’s okay for illegal aliens not to be asked for papers then they can’t ask anyone!
The Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause applies only to state governments, but the requirement of equal protection has been read to apply to the federal government as a component of Fifth Amendment due process.

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