PHOENIX - Just days before an anticipated Supreme Court ruling, the American Civil Liberties Union wants state officials to warn some unidentified possible "rogue" officers against enforcing the state's immigration law before they are legally entitled to do so.
In a letter to the Peace Officers Standards and Training Board (AZ POST) on Thursday, Alessandra Meetze, executive director of the ACLU Arizona chapter, said even if the Supreme Court upholds part of SB 1070, that does not free officers to immediately start checking the immigration status of those they have stopped.
If the court rules in favor of the state, she said, it would order U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton to dissolve the injunction she issued nearly two years ago barring the state from enforcing several key provisions while the legality of the law is debated, and enforcement must wait for Bolton to do that, however long it takes.
The letter comes days after Gov. Jan Brewer ordered Lyle Mann, the AZ POST executive director, to update the training video and materials it prepared in 2010, in anticipation of SB 1070 taking effect.
Much of that applies to the provision requiring officers who have stopped someone to verify if that person is in the country legally if there is reasonable suspicion that he or she is not. Race can be used as a factor but not as the only factor.
Mann would not comment on the letter. He said previously that the information is designed to ensure that officers do not engage in racial profiling. The training materials include guidelines that Border Patrol officers use when determining whom to question.
Meetze said she fears that sending out updated materials now amounts to an invitation for officers to start making these inquiries the moment the Supreme Court issues its ruling, assuming it upholds the legality of what foes of the law have called the "show me your papers" provision.
"Any law enforcement agency that attempts to enforce the enjoined provisions of SB 1070 before those provisions are deemed legally enforceable would expose itself to considerable scrutiny," she wrote to Mann.
Meetze is also critical of the training materials, contending they are flawed because they are based on what courts have said the Border Patrol is entitled to do. She said those rulings involve people near the border and have nothing to do with normal interactions that state and local police have with those they stop.
For example, those materials list a host of factors that can be considered in determining whether there is reasonable suspicion someone is in this country illegally, such a traveling in a group, being in an overloaded car or an inability to speak English. Meetze said there are many people who are in this country legally who might fall into those categories.
Finally, Meetze suggested officers should think twice about enforcing SB 1070, even if the high court upholds the law, because there are other challenges, beyond the one now being considered by the court, so the dispute won't be over.
Meetze said her organization is considering "all options" if the court sides with Arizona, including seeking a new injunction based on its own claims that SB 1070 will automatically lead to illegal racial profiling.
On StarNet: An interactive timeline about SB 1070 is at timeline.azstarnet.com/SB1070