Opinion: Questions and answers on SB 1070 -- a guide to Arizona’s new immigration law


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Along with the usual arguments for and against Arizona’s tough new immigration law, another theme emerged this week during a federal court hearing on the law’s fate: Some parts of the legislation are confusing.

An attorney representing Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer acknowledged as much under pointed questioning by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton in Phoenix on Thursday.

This sort of thing happens now and then with all kinds of legislation, of course. Fuzzy language, we mean. Perhaps this partly explains why descriptions of the Arizona law occassionaly miss the mark. For example, SB 1070 is sometimes described as “allowing” police to ask suspected illegal immigrants about their status. Actually, police are already allowed to do that. SB 1070 makes such inquiries a requirement – but only, as the law says, when “practicable.”


Which brings us to a useful Q & A our colleague Nicholas Riccardi prepared on the law. Here’s an excerpt concerning the role of police and SB 1070:

What else must police do under the law? Anyone arrested in Arizona cannot be released until police check with the federal government to determine whether that person is in the country legally. Some read this to mean that it doesn’t matter if suspects have birth certificates and passports — the federal government must confirm their status before they are freed. Others contend that the requirement only applies to suspected illegal immigrants. Also, authorities must alert the federal government when any illegal immigrant convicted of a crime of any severity is released from custody or pays a fine to resolve a case. Are police required to turn convicted illegal immigrants over to the federal government? No, just to notify federal immigration agents.

Surprising, no? Follow this link to the entire Q & A to learn more about Arizona’s immigration law.

Bolton is considering requests to halt the law before it takes effect July 29. It’s not clear when Bolton will rule on the lawsuits by civil rights groups and the Obama administration. Stay tuned.

-- Steve Padilla

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