Once-feared Arizona immigration law defeated as part of civil settlement

A United States Border Patrol truck sits next to the border fence between the United States and Mexico near Nogales, Arizona. On Thursday, the state of Arizona entered into a settlement agreement with a coalition of civil rights groups opposed to a controversial immigration law passed in 2010 that allowed police officers to seek legal proof from persons suspected to be in the country illegally. File Photo by Art Foxall/UPI

PHOENIX, Sept. 15 (UPI) — A six-year-old immigration law in Arizona, once among the fiercest in the nation, was practically defeated Thursday when state officials agreed to settle a major civil rights lawsuit.

The law, called SB 1070, was passed and took effect in 2010 and ultimately led to practices civil rights groups say were discriminatory.

The primary focus of the lawsuit was Section 2(b), which allows police officers to make a reasonable effort to determine the legal status of suspected illegal immigrants — a provision known as the “show me your papers” clause.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in an informal opinion Thursday that officers across the state will now be specifically instructed how to enforce — or not enforce — the law.

“Officers shall not prolong a stop, detention or arrest solely for the purpose of verifying immigration status,” Brnovich wrote. “Officers shall not contact, stop, detain or arrest an individual based on race, color, or national origin, except when it is part of a suspect description.”

“You can’t profile. You can’t make illegal stops,” he added. “These are things we all agree on. It’s bad policing”

“Under the settlement, an Informal Attorney General Opinion will be issued providing guidance and clarity to Arizona law enforcement agencies and officers on how to comply with the key provision of SB 1070 section 2(b),” Brnovich’s office said in a statement.

Parties opposed to the law said Thursday they will continue to watch and make sure the terms of the agreement are complied with.

“Arizona blazed a trail of mean-spirited policies intended to starve and isolate immigrants six years ago, and many states followed this flawed path,” Victor Viramontes, attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said. “After millions of dollars spent on lawyers, multiple federal decisions blocking key provisions of the law, and finally a state-issued opinion severely constraining local law enforcement, Arizona’s policies have failed to serve anyone living in Arizona.”

The controversial law was originally armed with a suite of anti-illegal immigration measures, most of which were subsequently stripped away by a series of court decisions. Two provisions in Section 2(b), though, were upheld by state and federal courts.

Several civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, MALDEF and the National Immigration Law Center, fought against the law in Valle Del Sol vs. Whiting.

“Our 6-year lawsuit against SB 1070 is over,” ACLU of Arizona attorney Cecillia Wang said in a tweet. “AG [Brnovich] issues legal opinion acknowledging limits on the show-me-your-papers provision. We’ll be watching.”

“We intend to keep fighting to make sure people’s rights are not violated,” Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, said in a statement. “We will work with departments statewide to enact policies that limit the use of SB 1070 and collect data to monitor how it’s being implemented.”

The state of Arizona also agreed in the settlement to pay $1.4 million to the plaintiffs for legal costs.

The final terms of the agreement are pending court approval.


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