The Obama administration is still weighing its options on Arizona’s new immigration law but the ACLU and a host of immigrant rights groups went ahead Monday with the broadest challenge yet, a class-action lawsuit that could become the main vehicle for the brewing legal battle.
The law continues to roil the immigration debate and, on Sunday, even crossed over into popular culture when a contestant on the Miss USA pageant said she supported Arizona’s decision, saying states should be allowed to experiment.
Polls suggest a majority of Americans back the law, and lawmakers in a number of states have proposed following Arizona’s lead - something the groups that filed the class-action suit Monday said they’re trying to head off.
“This law turns ‘show me your papers’ into the Arizona state motto, and racial profiling into the Arizona state plan,” said Lucas Guttentag, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s immigrants’ rights project, which is leading the legal push.
The law requires police to ask for proof of legal residence from those they reasonably suspect to be illegal immigrants. The law specifically prohibits using race as a reason for suspicion, though opponents said they doubt police can meet the law’s requirements without racial profiling.
The ACLU’s suit lists a half-dozen constitutional grounds for the challenge, including whether the federal government has sole authority on immigration matters, whether the law violates the First, Fourth or Fourteenth Amendment, and whether it infringes on some people’s right to travel through Arizona.
Ten individual plaintiffs have joined with the groups in suing.
They range from two Jane Doe plaintiffs who say they lack convincing documents and could be psychologically hurt by a police stop, to Vicki Gaubeca, a naturalized citizen who lives in New Mexico, regularly travels to Arizona, and worries her state driver’s license doesn’t meet the stricter Arizona requirements.
Another plaintiff, Arizona resident Jim Shee, who is of Spanish and Chinese descent, said he has been stopped twice over the past month by local police who demanded his “papers.” He said he doesn’t want to carry his passport with him to prove his citizenship.
The Arizona law, though, says a valid driver’s license from the state would be accepted as proof.
Kris Kobach, a law professor who helped write Arizona’s legislation, said the suit was “a kitchen sink kind of complaint” that relies on piling up charges and hoping a court agrees with some of them.
Backers of the law say that after an initial period in which many people erroneously jumped to conclusions about its effects, the tide is turning in favor of the legislation, particularly after the governor signed a clarifying law further clamping down on potential racial profiling.
“I think it’s backfiring on the administration and on the open-borders crowd who thought that they could use this law as a rallying point for the upcoming elections,” Mr. Kobach said.
Supporters of the law now famously include Morgan Elizabeth Woolard, Miss Oklahoma and first runner-up for Miss USA.
During Sunday night’s pageant, Oscar Nunez, an actor on “The Office,” asked Miss Woolard whether she thought the Arizona law was appropriate for a state to enact.