Arizona’s SB 1070 and the Legalization of Racial Profiling

In 2010, the Arizona state legislature passed a blatantly racist law, SB 1070.

One of its most notorious provisions (Section B) is particularly loathsome. It requires officers of the law who have “lawful contact” with an individual to make a “reasonable attempt” to ascertain the individual’s immigrant status “where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States.” Two questions arise. First, what motivates the officer to initiate the “lawful contact”? Second, how does the officer arrive at a “reasonable suspicion”? The tool used in both cases is racial profiling.

Alto Arizona
Creative Commons License photo credit: Daquella manera

The Obama administration challenged SB 1070 in court. Judge Susan Bolton of the Federal District Court issued a preliminary injunction against sections of the law, including Section B. The State of Arizona appealed Judge Bolton’s ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which upheld Bolton’s decision. Subsequently the State of Arizona appealed to the Supreme Court, which heard the case on April 25. There was some discussion of Section B during the hearing. Astonishingly, some Justices made comments that suggested support for this provision.

If the Supreme Court rules in Arizona’s favor, racial profiling will be legalized in Arizona for years. What’s next?


  1. Cbtu77

    If a police officer pulls me over for speeding he has the right to ask me for my drivers license and proof of insurance. My drivers license is proof of my citizenship since in my state you still have to prove your citizenship to get a drivers license. Since it is illegal to drive without a license he has reason to ask me for my proof. Since it is illegal to be in the US without proper documentation he also has the right to ask for proof.

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