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Supreme Court Upholds “Show Me Your Papers” Provision in Arizona Immigration Law

The Supreme Court today upheld one of the most problematic parts of Arizona’s immigration laws – the provision that allows police, upon reasonable suspicion, to investigate whether the person is in the United States’ illegally.

The United States has historically eschewed “show us your papers” laws that have been a feature of other countries’ legal frameworks. In the U.S., police generally do not have a right to demand someone “show papers” except in particular circumstances when, for instance, they encounter a driver and want to be sure the driver is properly licensed.

Arizona’s law allows the police to, upon probable cause, temporarily detain someone to determine whether that person is in the United States lawfully.

The net effect is that the law will lead to racial profiling. People who look Hispanic, and perhaps aren’t fluent in English, are likely to be targeted for further investigation. The Supreme Court did hold out the possibility that Arizona’s immigration law would be entirely stricken if, after implementation, the law proved to be discriminatory in practice.

In the meantime, the law will target particular people for harassment and detention.

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