FAQ: What Does Arizona’s New Immigration Law Require?

On April 23, 2010, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer inflamed supporters of immigration reform by signing what has been labeled as the nation’s most aggressive immigration legislation — Arizona Senate Law SB 1070. The new law authorizes police officers to detain, when practicable, persons they reasonably suspect are illegally present in this country and to verify their status with federal officials. Law enforcement officials must have made the initial contact with the individual lawfully, such as stopping a motorist for a traffic law violation.

You can only be asked to show proof of legal residence if you are lawfully detained for violation of another law.

In any jurisdiction, a police officer can always make a lawful stop or detain an individual if he reasonably suspects that a law is being broken. In Arizona, this means that the officer can stop and detain any person if there is reasonable suspicion that the individual is breaking some other non-immigration law. He cannot stop someone on a whim or belief that the person might be in this country illegally without having first detained the person on suspicion of violating a local ordinance or state offense unrelated to immigration law. He then must have some reasonable suspicion that the lawfully detained individual is in this country illegally.

You must carry proof of legal residence such as driver’s license or permanent resident card.

The measure makes the failure to carry the proper immigration documents a misdemeanor. Proof of legal immigration status can be a valid Arizona driver’s license or non-operating identification license, permanent resident card, or any other locally or federally issued identification. The law does not require U.S. citizens to carry identification other than what might be required, such as when driving a motor vehicle. The law does not change any other requirements for legal immigrants. Once detained, the suspected alien can only be released once their immigration status has been verified with the federal government.

A legal alien can be charged with a misdemeanor if he or she fails to carry the proper immigration documents. They are subject to federal fines and penalties as well as to state penalties that provide for a fine up to $100 and no more than 20 days in jail. Subsequent violations carry a penalty of up to 30 days in jail.

Citizens can sue state or local authorities if the law is not being enforced.

The law also enables citizens to bring lawsuits against state authorities if they believe officials are not enforcing the new law. The measure provides that the state entity must pay upwards of $5,000 per day for each day after the filing of an action that it fails to enforce the new immigration law.