Archive | racial profiling RSS feed for this section

Racial Justice Advocates Ask Sen. Kohl to Support the End Racial Profiling Act

17 Jul

On Monday, July 9, a dozen Wisconsinites went to U.S. Senator Herb Kohl’s office to discuss the problem of racial profiling. They shared stories about their experiences living in Southeastern Wisconsin and described their concerns with race-based traffic stops and other actions by law enforcement they felt were discriminatory. 

ACLU of Wisconsin members were among those who visited Kohl’s office to ask for his support of the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA). The End Racial Profiling Act of 2011 (S. 1670 and H.R. 3618) would prohibit and attempt to ban racial profiling based on race, religion, ethnicity and national origin at the federal, state and local (including tribal) levels. The House version of ERPA includes gender as a protected category.

Contact Senator Kohl’s office and ask him to be a co-sponsor of the End Racial Profiling Act.

Followers of the Forward for Liberty blog may have already read our statements about how Milwaukee residents deserve professional policing after controversial allegations of illegal strip searches came to light. It is our position that racial profiling creates second-class citizens in Milwaukee and anywhere in Wisconsin where race is a factor in police stopping people on the street or in their cars. We worked to encourage the state legislature to pass a law requiring police to keep data on the race and ethnicity of people pulled over in traffic stops, but that law was quickly repealed by Governor Walker last year.

Some of the advocates who visited Kohl’s office are a part of the Face the Truth campaign which is an effort by the Rights Working Group to get meaningful action taken to stop discriminatory policing across the nation. The campaign is being endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union along with a coalition of over 100 national, state and local civil liberties, human rights, civil rights, immigrants’ rights and racial justice organizations.

Here is more about racial profiling from the Rights Working Group’s website:

What is racial profiling?

Racial profiling is the use of race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin by law enforcement agents as a factor in deciding whom to investigate, arrest or detain, except where these characteristics are part of a specific suspect description. It is a degrading practice, is pervasive across the United States and continues largely unchecked, violating constitutional and international human rights:

- African American, Native American and Latino/Hispanic individuals are stopped and searched much more often by law enforcement, for example, when “driving while black or brown” than whites;

- Since September 11, 2001, members of Arab, Muslim, and South Asian communities have increasingly and disproportionately been placed under surveillance, searched, interrogated and detained in the name of “national security” and have often times been labeled “terrorism suspects” when in reality many have only been charged with misdemeanors or minor immigration violations, if they have been charged at all;

- In recent years, law enforcement has singled out members of a third population under the guise of immigration enforcement—disproportionately harassing, interrogating, physically abusing and detaining individuals perceived to be Latino or Hispanic, including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.

By focusing on arbitrary factors unrelated to criminal activity rather than on specific indicators of criminal behavior or specific information about a criminal suspect, law enforcement agents decrease the hit rate on catching criminals. They also lose the trust of community members who believe agents to be biased or unjust. As a result, community members become less likely to assist with criminal investigations or seek protection from police when they themselves are victimized, which makes everyone less safe.

What has been done recently to stop racial profiling?

The U.S. Department of Justice issued guidance prohibiting the use of race and ethnicity by federal law enforcement agencies in 2003 but this guidance is not enforceable, it does not address profiling based on religion or national origin, it does not cover surveillance activities, and it leaves gaping loopholes that allow racial profiling for “national security” purposes and at U.S. borders. The Department of Justice should revise these guidelines and apply them to anywhere federal agents act in partnership with state or local law enforcement agents and to any agency that receives federal funds.

The Secure Communities program and the Criminal Alien Program were established by former President George Bush in 2008 and expanded under President Obama. These programs involve state and local police in the enforcement of federal immigration laws and have formally (and informally) resulted in pre-textual arrests of people whom the police perceive to be “foreign,” including citizens and lawful permanent residents; police stop these individuals for other alleged, often minor offenses, as a pretext for checking immigration status. Programs like these should be eliminated if they result in racial profiling.

Arizona’s Anti-Immigrant Law: What’s at Stake When the Supreme Court Hears SB 1070

26 Apr

This week the infamous Arizona law that legalized racial profiling and criminalized individuals who do not carry proof of their citizenship status at all times reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The ACLU, along with a coalition of civil rights organizations, have challenged Arizona’s SB 1070 because it invites unequal treatment of individuals by law enforcement, conflicts with federal law and violates basic individual freedoms.

This info graphic helps to explain what is wrong with the Arizona law, where copycat laws were passed in other states and what’s at stake in the SCOTUS decision. Read on for the latest update from the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. Report from the Supreme Court: SB 1070:

On April 25,  the Supreme Court heard arguments in one of the big cases of the term, Arizona v. United States. Several justices, including Justice Stephen Breyer, expressed serious concerns about the law’s impact on civil liberties, as they recognized that it might lead to prolonged detention while an officer investigates a person’s  immigration status.

In response to those serious civil liberties concerns, Arizona was forced to retreat. Arizona was not defending S.B. 1070 as it was written by the state legislature, but rather an entirely different and fictional law that merely notifies the federal government that it has detained someone whose legal status it deems to be suspect.

But make no mistake: even that narrow reading of the law would result in a serious violation of the rights of citizens and lawfully present immigrants. As we heard in court today, there’s no easy way for a citizen who happens not to have their ID on them to avoid being detained for an hour or more on the side of the road while an officer demands that they prove their right to be here.

Tellingly, Arizona did not step up to defend what the state legislature actually did in S.B. 1070. The law, on its face, implements an Arizona state immigration enforcement policy of zero tolerance and maximum harshness. But the federal immigration law that Congress passed recognizes that immigration status is actually far more complicated under federal law. Under federal law, the executive branch can permit someone who is applying for asylum, or seeking other kinds of legal status, to stay in the U.S. while their status is decided. But under Arizona law, they are subject to detention and criminal prosecution, and they take that risk every time they leave their homes and venture out onto Arizona’s streets.

Chief Justice John Roberts asked today whether Arizona v. United States is a case about racial profiling. And although the federal government lawsuit is about the limits on state power, racial profiling is a central issue in the case, as chief law enforcement officials around the country have stated. It’s simply impossible to enforce laws like S.B. 1070 without relying on false and illegal stereotypes. And because that’s true, U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants are caught in the dragnet. Ultimately, it’s not only up to the Supreme Court to decide if S.B. 1070 will stand. The American people must decide whether we will tolerate a nation with such invidious laws.

This blog post was written by Cecillia Wang from the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and was originally posted on the ACLU’s Blog of Rights.

ACLU of Wisconsin goes to residents for information concerning Milwaukee police strip searches

2 Apr

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin has been trying to investigate the policies and practices of the Milwaukee Police Department regarding strip searches.  The ACLU’s investigation began after the MPD in March acknowledged that Milwaukee police officers may have been conducting unauthorized strip searches and illegal body cavity searches on the public streets.

On March 28, 2012 ACLU made a public records request to the MPD for copies of documents such as orders, memos and report that may help us to assess whether the department is following its own strip search and body cavity search procedures.  The department has not yet produced the documents requested or denied our request.

Because of the delay on the part of MPD and the public interest in this matter, the ACLU of Wisconsin has begun seeking alternative sources of information.

The ACLU is asking citizens for copies of any strip search authorization reports that MPD may have issued to them.  MPD procedures require MPD give the subject of a strip search a copy of a Strip Search Authorization Report.  The police ask the subject of the search to sign and affix a fingerprint to the report.

The ACLU is publicizing their request by means of social media and flyers distributed on the street, in public places, and through community organizations. While it is impossible to know how many Strip Search Authorization Reports the MPD issued by asking citizens, it should be possible to learn relevant information about MPD search practices.  The ACLU has promised to respect the privacy of those who submit copies of forms. The ACLU hopes that more information from the MPD will be forthcoming.  The ACLU will share the facts regarding any possible pattern or practice of improper strip searches with appropriate authorities and the public.

Milwaukee residents living in every neighborhood deserve high quality professional police service

2 Apr

Milwaukee residents living in every neighborhood deserve high quality professional police service. No one, regardless of where they live, should have to put up with police misconduct. Recent allegations  that several officers in District Five carried out unauthorized strip searches and illegal body cavity searches need to be investigated carefully, fairly, and comprehensively. While it is important to determine whether or not individual officers violated department policies or state law or civil rights laws, it is equally important that the department evaluate its own policies, practices, and strategies to see if they may have undermined police service and civil liberties.

It is in the interest of residents and the department that the department responds to the alleged incidents of police misconduct with candor, transparency, and self-evaluation. Without violating the due process rights of the officers involved and regardless of the outcome of investigations into their conduct, the department can learn from this controversy and provide better service in the future.

The department must consider what impact its own policies, practices, and strategies may have on the delivery of police services.

For instance, incredible as it sounds, if the officers were truly ignorant of the policies or the differences between a pat down or frisk, a strip search, or a body cavity search, then the department has to explain how its training and supervision failed. Is their training forgotten or ignored when officers detain residents on our public streets?

The department must also evaluate its proactive policing strategy to see if it makes incidents of police misconduct more likely to occur. Under this strategy the Milwaukee Police Department made 240,000 traffic and subject stops in 2010. Traffic stop figures through October 2011 show the department will have made a similar number of stops in 2011, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

This extraordinary number of stops obviously increases the opportunity for interactions between officers and residents to go awry. What’s more as Milwaukee Police Chief Flynn told the newspaper, “Yes, of course we are going to stop lots of innocent people.”  The department should evaluate what message it is sending to officers when its proactive policing strategy disregards a person’s innocence. The message at best says civil liberties are expendable.

We pointed out in an op ed to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last month that the department should also revisit its decision to create the Gang/Drug Unit when the Metropolitan Investigations Division, formed in August, 2010. It appears that the implicated officers including a sergeant belonged to District Five’s anti-gang unit. Many police managers across the country have moved away from special gang and drug units, especially after revelations of widespread abuse by such units of the Los Angeles Police Department. Perhaps, there is a legitimate use for such units, but it appears the type and level of supervision given to Milwaukee’s anti-gang unit was deficient.

Finally, because metropolitan Milwaukee is a hyper-segregated area along racial and income lines, one cannot address policing without addressing civil rights. In the light of the department’s inability to use traffic stop data to identify possible racially biased policing, it is imperative that the department clarify how it is identifying biased officers. We don’t know if these District Five officers are biased, but bias could be a contributing factor. The department needs to be more aggressive in identifying and remedying individual or systemic bias.

The Milwaukee Police Department has an opportunity to evaluate its policies, practices and strategies following the allegations regarding misconduct by officers from District Five. If it simply investigates the officers, it will be setting Milwaukee up for more frustration. Chief Flynn has the capacity to exercise leadership. He can demonstrate that the department will address possible systemic problems. If so, this controversy may be an opportunity to further improve police community relations.

If you have been the target of racial profiling in Milwaukee or in Wisconsin, tell the ACLU of Wisconsin your story.

ACLU of WI: Racial profiling creates second-class citizens

7 Dec

Milwaukee police last year made nearly 200,000 traffic stops. Police Chief of Edward Flynn acknowledges that his officers are “going to stop lots of innocent people.” What’s more a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Watchdog Report found a racial gap in the 46,000 traffic stops Milwaukee police made in the first four months of 2011. The Chief explains the racial gap by pointing to his targeted policing strategy which uses traffic stops to disrupt criminal activity.

The Chief’s explanation falls short. Attributing racial disparities to a conscious departmental policy not only downplays the existence of biased policing, but by encouraging officers to make so many traffic stops, the policy masks illegal racial profiling.

The Journal Sentinel report found that the greatest racial disparity in traffic stops occurs in Police District 1, which includes downtown and parts of the east side, which have mostly white residents. A more probable explanation in this district than the effects of targeted policing is the phenomena known as “race out of place” stops. In other districts, the notion that police are responding to suspect descriptions isn’t credible when the description du jour appears to be “young black male”.

The Journal Sentinel report also found that black drivers were much more likely to have their vehicles searched than white drivers. Unfortunately, the report doesn’t state how often police used the commonly abused practice of consent searches. It did find that the hit rates for contraband were approximately 22% for both black and white drivers.

Community leaders must demand to know what the Chief is doing to eliminate bias, in addition to exhorting his officers to be fair and treat all motorists with respect. If the Chief’s policing strategy has rendered traffic stop data collection and analysis less useful as a management tool, how is the department determining the extent to which bias may be occurring? How is it remedied?

It has been suggested that the number of complaints filed by citizens about police actions is a measure of how officers treat motorists. Citizen complaints do not give us the same quantitative information as traffic stop data. Individual motorists may complain about rude treatment, but they can’t know how many black or Hispanic drivers are stopped and searched compared to white drivers. There is also reluctance on the part of offended drivers to file complaints when the complaint process is daunting to most ordinary citizens. The ACLU of Wisconsin is collecting stories about biased policing online at www.aclu-wi.org/story.

In serious discussions about using traffic stop data to address biased policing, no one I know claims that the data alone will prove that a particular officer or shift or agency is biased. Officers who do not act contrary to rules prohibiting racial profiling should have nothing to fear. Black and Hispanic drivers on the other hand do have something to fear from racial profiling – second class police service and citizenship.

This “Another View” op-ed originally appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on December 7, 2011. Read the MJS editorial in support of Chief Flynn’s policies on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel opinion page.

Racial Profiling Law Could Have Helped Cops End Biased Policing

22 Jun

Today Governor Scott Walker signed a bill to repeal a law designed to help police managers identify biased policing. The law had only just gone into effect and set up a system to collect and analyze data on the race and ethnicity of motorists when police officers initiate certain types of traffic stops or conduct searches of vehicles.

The ACLU of Wisconsin asks, shouldn’t Wisconsin law enforcement agencies make it a priority to protect and serve all of the members of the public without bias, including motorists of color?

Governor Walker signed the repeal of the law that took effect January 1, 2011 and gave Wisconsin law enforcement managers a new tool to identify biased policing during traffic stops. The new law set up a system to collect traffic stop data and have the Office of Justice Assistance analyze it to determine if minority motorists were being stopped or searched disproportionately compared to non-minority motorists.

ACLU of Wisconsin’s Executive Director Chris Ahmuty served on the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance advisory committee that helped design the traffic stop data collection system. This advisory committee was mostly composed of law enforcement professionals. It conducted listening sessions around the state where we heard compelling testimony from residents who felt they were victims of biased policing. The advisory committee also heard from many law enforcement professionals who had significant input into the creation of the system.

Most professional law enforcement leaders nationwide recognize the importance of identifying bias where it exists and addressing it. The Wisconsin legislators and Governor Walker repealed this law without giving it a chance.

While some small departments may have legitimate technical and financial issues in complying with the new law immediately, assertions regarding expense and labor costs are overblown. It is disturbing that opponents of addressing biased policing chose to repeal the law rather than attempt to make the system work. Their haste calls into question their commitment to solving the problem of racial profiling and bias among law enforcement officers in our state.

The ACLU of Wisconsin will work with law enforcement officials, community leaders, racial justice advocates and any residents of Wisconsin to identify workable solutions to the problem of racial profiling. In response to the repeal of the traffic stop data collection law, the ACLU of Wisconsin will begin an effort to collect the stories from individuals who have experienced biased policing

ACLU of WI Urges WI Senate to Reject Hasty Move to Repeal Racial Profiling Data Collection Law

23 Feb

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin is dismayed legislators are seeking to repeal a new tool for police managers seeking to identify and address possible racial profiling in officer initiated traffic stops. Today the Senate Committee on Transportation and Elections voted to send SB-15 to the full Senate for a vote to repeal our state’s new traffic stop data collection system.

On January 1, 2011 most law enforcement agencies across Wisconsin began collecting data from traffic stops and searches which includes the actual or perceived race or ethnicity of the motorists they stop. The intention of the new traffic stop data collection system is to make it possible determine if a law enforcement agency or one of its units is disproportionately stopping minority motorists. If so, the agencies’ leaders would be able to investigate and determine the degree to which the disparity may be the result of biased policing.

At the public hearing on the bill to repeal traffic stop data collection, it was clear there was a lot of confusion about the new system. The ACLU of Wisconsin testified at the bill’s public hearing on February 16, 2011 urging legislators to address problems with implementation rather than denying that biased policing can happen here. Very small agencies may not have the computer capacity to automatically load most of the data requested at the time of a traffic stop — however — that is no reason to scuttle a useful and manageable way to address a real problem for law enforcement all across our state.

To give up on a data collection system, that like most other data systems, is bound to have glitches during startup, suggests that opponents of data collection do not take bias in policing seriously. Wisconsin residents from across Wisconsin during a series of listening sessions in late 2009 told of their well-founded concerns. Wisconsin law enforcement officials, community leaders, and national experts were involved in the development of the new system for the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance. If the Senate votes to repeal traffic stop data collection, it will send the wrong message. Rather than being problem solvers, they will be moving against the mainstream of law enforcement professionals nationwide who are committed to eliminating bias in policing.

Información Sobre La Legislación de Inmigración Propuesta de Wisconsin

1 Dec

En Espanol!
Información sobre la legislación de inmigración propuesta de Wisconsin Rep. Pridemore.

http://www.youtube.com/get_player
Razones para oponerse a la legislación (en Ingles) y advertencias del recorrido para Arizona durante el 4 de Julio(en Ingles).

Top Ten Reasons To Oppose an Arizona-Style Immigration Law in Wisconsin

16 Nov

We’ve been saying that “what happens in Arizona, stops in Arizona.” That state’s show-us-your-papers racial profiling law inspired boycotts by travelers and athletes and has come at a huge cost to taxpayers in court.

But in Wisconsin, Representative Don Pridemore has drafted a version of Arizona’s law for our state. The ACLU of Wisconsin is concerned that an Arizona-style state immigration enforcement bill will lead to racial profiling, illegal or mistaken detentions, and waste taxpayers’ money – especially if an unconstitutional law sails unchecked through the state legislature.

Here are the top ten reasons why the ACLU of Wisconsin says an Arizona-style immigration law would be bad for Wisconsin. The bill will:

1). …lead to racial profiling – This bill will force police to detain individuals when the officer believes there is reasonable suspicion that an individual is here illegally. But what constitutes reasonable suspicion? Their ethnicity, accent, economic status?

2). …cause illegal or mistaken detention – How will this bill protect non-criminals who won’t be carrying around or have timely access to documents proving their legal presence? When a police officer stops someone with “reasonable suspicion,” what separates a citizen who is a University student who doesn’t have his wallet and proof of citizenship from an exchange student who doesn’t have his wallet? Again, racial profiling will be likely?

3). …be a wasteful expense to taxpayers – Detention costs will rarely be recovered and will never be recovered from individuals found innocent. There will also be those who are detained, but would have been released earlier otherwise. Defending lawsuits from individuals who have been illegally detained will also cost counties and the state.

4). …distract professional law enforcement from actual crime - Our police officers already have enough to do without taking off time from fighting crime to learn how to identify those without proper documents and enforce federal immigration law. Also arrests and booking are long enough processes without going through additional steps to document reasonable suspicion to the satisfaction of supervisors and courts.

5). …strain relations with federal authorities – Is there any reason to believe that ICE would take custody of or at least take notice of these suspects, including those who are legally present but just can’t prove it within two days? Will this impact the head count in local jails? And why should federal authorities allow Wisconsin to interfere with federal enforcement responsibilities, especially when the federal Department of Justice has sued Arizona for doing so?

6). …pre-empt local control in Madison – It is inconsistent to say that the state of Wisconsin can enforce its own immigration laws while at the same time denying the City of Madison its own stance on immigration. We need meaningful, federal immigration reform now.

7). …harm Wisconsin businesses, including agribusiness – While Rep.
Pridemore’s proposal doesn’t currently include Arizona-type penalties on business, it will hurt businesses nevertheless when legal residents and citizens get sick of racial profiling and employment discrimination.

8). …be an affront to Wisconsin citizens – It goes without saying that this proposal is offensive to honest, taxpaying people, particularly the Latino citizens of Wisconsin. Racial profiling is a big enough problem for people of color in Wisconsin.

9). …create a climate of intolerance in our state – At a time when we are trying to improve our state’s economy, Wisconsin needs to lay out the welcome mat for businesses, workers and students.

10). …open the possibility of a costly lawsuit – The racially motivated Arizona bill will likely cost the taxpayers around a million dollars in court costs. Can Wisconsin afford to pass an unconstitutional bill?

Sidenote: Change.org also has a top-ten list on why this would be a bad law. The proposal also had media coverage in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, UW Daily Cardinal and Badger Herald, and the ACLU of WI was quoted on the issue in the Capitol Times. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also published a strong criticism of the proposal.

ACLU of Wisconsin Issues Travel Advisory for State of Arizona

1 Jul

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin alerts Wisconsin residents to potential threats to the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individuals planning to travel or stay in Arizona. This is especially important for those traveling during the holiday weekend.

Get your bust card:
The ACLU has prepared an informational card for the public entitled, “What to Do if You’re Stopped by Police, Immigration Agents or the FBI.” While the card provides information that applies throughout the United States in any encounter with law enforcement officials, individuals are particularly advised to download and read this card before traveling to Arizona. A copy is available here (en Español).

Key information that applies to all individuals considering travel through Arizona includes the following:

    • If you travel through the state of Arizona and encounter law enforcement officers, remember that all persons within the boundaries of the United States, regardless of immigration status, are protected by the U.S. Constitution.

 

  • Racial and ethnic profiling is illegal. An officer cannot stop you because of physical features or English ability. The officer must be able to articulate a reason for a “lawful stop or detention.”

 

 

  • If you are stopped for questioning:

 

Stay calm. Don’t run. Don’t argue, resist or obstruct the police, even if you are innocent or police are violating your rights. Keep your hands where police can see them. If you are driving a car, stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible. Turn off the car, turn on the internal light, open the window part way and place your hands on the wheel.

Ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, you have the right to calmly and silently walk away. If you are under arrest, you have a right to know why.

You have the right to remain silent and cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions. If you wish to remain silent, tell the officer out loud. However, under state law in Arizona and some other states, you must give your name if asked to identify yourself. If you are the driver of a vehicle, upon request, show police your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent. If you are a passenger, you can ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, sit silently in the car or calmly leave. Even if the officer says no, you have the right to remain silent.

You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but police may “pat down” your clothing if they suspect a weapon. You should not physically resist, but you have the right to refuse consent for any further search. If you do consent, it can affect your rights later in court. If you are the driver of a vehicle and an officer or immigration agent asks to look inside your car, you can refuse to consent to the search. But if police believe your car contains evidence of a crime, your car can be searched without your consent.

 

  • If you are questioned about your immigration status:

 

You have the right to remain silent and do not have to discuss your immigration or citizenship status with police, immigration agents or any other officials. You do not have to answer questions about where you were born, whether you are a U.S. citizen, or how you entered the country. (Separate rules apply at international borders and airports, and for individuals on certain nonimmigrant visas, including tourists and business travelers.)

If you are not a U.S. citizen and an immigration agent requests your immigration papers, you must show them if you have them with you. If you are over 18, carry your immigration documents with you at all times. If you do not have immigration papers, say you want to remain silent.

Do not lie about your citizenship status or provide fake documents.

 

  • If you feel your rights have been violated, write down everything you can remember, including officers’ badge and patrol car numbers, which agency the officers were from, and any other details. Get contact information for witnesses.

 

 

  • Residents of Hawai’i, New Mexico, and Washington should be aware that, because the driver’s licenses of their states do not require proof of legal residence for issuance, they may not satisfy Arizona criteria for identification under the new Arizona racial profiling law.

 

Wisconsin residents who are subjected to racial or ethnic profiling or other rights violations are encouraged to report these concerns to the ACLU of Wisconsin at (414) 272-4032 x 23.

More on the Arizona racial profiling law:
On April 23, 2010, Arizona enacted a state racial profiling law, SB 1070, that has generated fear and confusion among the public about the treatment and rights of Americans in the State of Arizona. Although the law is not scheduled to go into effect until July 29, 2010, and multiple lawsuits have already been filed to prevent it from taking effect at all, a history of rampant racial profiling by law enforcement officials in Maricopa County, Arizona (which includes the cities of Phoenix, Glendale, Mesa, and Scottsdale) and a stated policy of “attrition through enforcement” adopted by lawmakers in the state give credible reason to be concerned even before the date SB 1070 is supposed to go into effect.

The law will require police officers to demand papers proving U.S. citizenship or immigration status from any individual whom they stop, detain, or arrest, based on an undefined “reasonable suspicion” that the individual is in the country unlawfully. It invites discrimination against and pretextual stops and arrests of Latinos, other racial minorities, and individuals believed to look or sound “foreign,” based on their race, ethnicity, or national origin.

The law expressly provides that even suspected infractions of city or town ordinances – such as jaywalking, excessive noise, or having an overgrown or untidy lawn – can and should lead to immigration questioning. If individuals are unable to prove to the police officer that they are permitted to be in the United States, they may be subject to warrantless arrest without any probable cause that they have committed a crime.

Since 2007, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) has systematically engaged in selective enforcement of minor traffic laws to target Latino motorists for stops and investigation of their U.S. citizenship or immigration status. The U.S. Department of Justice has initiated an investigation into the practices of the MCSO, and there are at least two pending civil rights lawsuits challenging this activity in the federal courts.

The increased risk that individuals and motorists will be stopped, questioned, detained, and arrested because of their race, ethnicity, or national origin makes it imperative that individuals understand their rights when encountering law enforcement authorities in Arizona.

ACLU of WI Supports the Proposed City Resolution on Immigration and Local Law Enforcement

1 Jun

The ACLU of Wisconsin Madison Area Office sent a letter today to the members of the Madison Common Council urging them to support a resolution on the topic of local law enforcement, racial profiling and immigration. This is what we wrote:

“The ACLU of Wisconsin urges the City of Madison Common Council to vote in favor of a resolution affirming Madison’s current sensible approach to enforcement of flawed federal immigration laws and opposing discriminatory policing practices and proposals. Local law enforcement practices that involve racial profiling result in bad policing, overstep the authority of local governments, and ultimately make our communities less safe.

“This important resolution reaffirms existing Madison police policies which oppose racial profiling. In addition, the ACLU of Wisconsin also supports the call by the resolution sponsors for the Dane County Sheriff’s Department to end its current practice of reporting persons who are arrested – but not convicted of crimes – to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).

“Around the country, the ACLU has actively challenged racial profiling. The most recent, extreme example of such a biased law – against which the ACLU has filed suit – is the recently-passed Arizona legislation allowing police officers to demand citizenship papers based on a so-called “reasonable suspicion” that a person is undocumented. This law clearly violates the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. constitution: it is inevitable that “reasonable suspicion” will disproportionately impact persons of color and non-native English speakers, U.S. citizens, lawful residents and suspected undocumented persons alike. By interfering with the federal government’s sole authority to regulate immigration, the Arizona law also violates the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.

“Good community-based policing is essential for effective law enforcement to protect public safety. Local police rely on community residents to provide the information they need to fight crime. Immigration enforcement and racial profiling by local police undermine community policing efforts and add to the loss of trust by large sectors of the community it is obligated to serve and protect. In communities where people are afraid to talk to local police, more crimes go unreported, fewer witnesses come forth, and people are less likely to report suspicious activity.

The ACLU of Wisconsin therefore urges the Madison Common Council to protect everyone in the community and pass resolution 18594.”

Read more about the issue in this article from the Capitol Times.
The Madison common council will vote on the resolution tonight (Tuesday, June 1) at 6:30 p.m. in room 201 of the City-County building.

Take Action: Support the ACLU’s Lawsuit Against the Arizona Racial Profiling Law

17 May

A lot of people are outraged about Arizona’s new racial profiling, “show me your papers” law. And today, the American Civil Liberties Union is taking action.

Just a few hours ago, the national ACLU went to federal court to block this discriminatory law from taking effect.

You can add your name to our list of supporters today. To help you show your public support for reversing this law, we’ll send you a free “What Happens in Arizona, STOPS In Arizona” bumper sticker.

Racial profiling is a deeply offensive affront to the American values of justice and fairness. And using race to demand that people produce “papers” to prove who they are is a police-state tactic that is completely unacceptable in America. If we don’t stop this law now, similar ones could spread across the nation. Already, state lawmakers in at least 10 other states have promised to bring similar bills to their legislatures.

We need to first stop this law in Arizona and then continue to work to prevent such bills from ever passing in Wisconsin.

That’s why the national ACLU is taking Arizona to court, along with our partners the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Immigration Law Center, and a number of other civil rights groups.

Under the new law, Arizona police will be required to ask people they stop for their citizenship papers based on “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the country unlawfully. And by leaving “reasonable suspicion” undefined, the law leaves police officers little choice but to act on appearance and language, inviting a new wave of rampant racial profiling. Find out more about the facts on the new Arizona law on-line.

Today, our lawyers took the first legal step to stop this law. You can read a copy of our complaint on-line. And we’ll be organizing on the ground in Arizona, training volunteer lawyers to help people defend themselves against racial profiling. We won’t stand by while this law transforms Arizona into a place where anyone can be forced to “show papers” when they are stopped by police just because of how they look or talk or dress.

Racial profiling is unconstitutional, unacceptable and un-American. But, we’ll only stop extremism and injustice by acting together to end them.

We need you on board. Can we count you in?

For justice,
Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director
ACLU

Remember – we can’t do it without your help!
Don’t forget to support the ACLU in our work to fight racial profiling in Arizona, in Wisconsin and across the country.