In the last few weeks, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) of Arizona has charged the Tucson Police Department of violating certain protections included in the state's controversial immigration law, known as SB 1070.
The specific charge is centered around an incident that involved an illegal stop of two Hispanic men sitting in a van. They were stopped only because they were Hispanic. Also, this is not the first time the ACLU has attempted to go after SB 1070.
However, in this most recent case, the ACLU argues that officers from the Tucson Police Department followed, and eventually stopped, two men in a van . The ACLU goes on to say that after the men were stopped, the officers “demanded to know where the two men were from, accused them of being from Mexico and, after holding them for 30 minutes at the spot, turned them over to U.S. Border Patrol.”
Christine P. Sun, an attorney with the ACLU said that this is a case of “racial profiling, pure and simple.” Meanwhile, members of the Tucson Police Department are not saying much. While the department has acknowledged the ACLU complaint, neither the police nor the city attorney has offered any comment.
It was only two years ago that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a substantial portion of SB 1070. The Court ruled that the “state was infringing on Congress' power by trying to impose its own penalties on those who violated federal immigration laws.” While a significant amount of the law was an issue for the Court, the part of SB 1070 that was approved was the section that permits police officers to “determine the legal status of those with whom they came into contact during their regular duties and who they had reasonable suspicion to believe” were in the country without documentation. This procedure is allowed as long as the stop itself does not take too long.
However, as is often the case, the Court left open a different question: “Whether residents could challenge that part of the law if police were found to be abusing it.” This is not the first time an issue similar to this one has presented itself. Meanwhile, this recent Tucson case had more publicity than others because a crowd gathered during the actual stop. At the time of the incident, the crowd demanded that the officers release the two men.
During the course of the stop, the officers requested the men's identification. After it was discovered that neither of the men had identification with them, the officers notified Border Patrol.
Shortly after the stop, Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor publicly denied any sort of racial profiling was associated with the recent events. Villasenor added that the officer who made the stop was Hispanic, too. The men were taken into custody by Border Patrol, but eventually released on bond. According to specific guidelines, Tucson has 60 days to respond to ACLU's complaint.
It will be interesting to see how the city answers the complaint. What are your thoughts? Was this an isolated event, or do you believe it happens on a regular basis?