Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Toothless Immigration Law

It is either fortunate or unfortunate, depending upon which side you are on concerning this new immigration law, that the undocumented workers in our midst do not realize that this new law is nigh unenforceable. First, the officers charged with enforcing this new law have had zero training on how to implement it. That means the average police officer knows about as much about this law as you do. Secondly, the restrictions on how to get "probable cause" to check documentation is very difficult. Allow me to explain.

This new law does not allow an officer to check documentation for the following reasons:

1. They cannot check documentation based on perceived ethnicity. That means that they cannot check simply because the person "looks Hispanic." No racial profiling.

2. They cannot check documentation due to an inability to speak English, or because of their accent.

That means if an officer pulls over an individual he suspects is of Hispanic origins who cannot speak English, he cannot check documentation based on these observations. So, what would lead to probable cause? That is, when the officer is summoned to court to testify, what will he say to the defense attorney that will satisfy the question of "Why did you ask for Mr. Garcia's documentation?"

How does the officer answer that? If he says it is because Mr. Garcia could not produce a valid driver's license, then that means you, my American friend, can now be detained for up to 48 hours until proof of your citizenship is attained if you lose your license and drive anyway. That may not sound too horrible, but consider this, However the officer answers that question can be directly applied to yourself. That means, inevitably, legal immigrants and even native born Americans can spend time in detention until they can produce proof of citizenship.

That's why I say that this new law is really toothless. No officer in Alabama wants to deal with the headache of accidentally detaining an American citizen because he did not produce a valid driver's license. No court wants to deal with the obvious problem of the officer who candidly admits, "I checked because he looked and sounded foreign." If he can't do this, exactly how are we going to enforce this law? I'm glad I am not a police officer in Alabama right now. This new law has certainly not done them any favors.

Don't worry about it overmuch. This isn't the first time that an anti-immigration law has passed that doesn't make any sense. In 1875, Congress passed a law that barred prostitutes from immigrating into the USA.

Perhaps we could help out our police officers by figuring out how they determined who was and who wasn't a prostitute in 1875. I think that would be an interesting study, don't you?


Matthew said...

"How does the officer answer that? If he says it is because Mr. Garcia could not produce a valid driver's license, then that means you, my American friend, can now be detained for up to 48 hours until proof of your citizenship is attained if you lose your license and drive anyway."

That is completely, and totally false. Anyone who has a valid license or identification card can be verified in seconds by the officer on the side of the road; provided that the person gives them their correct name, date of birth and/or social security number. The computer even returns a photo of the person.

Brad Williams said...

My point still stands. If an American citizen cannot provide this, he can be detained upon suspicion that he is illegal. This law does not allow for racial profiling.

So, if an illegal is pulled over and gives a bogus ID number and the pic looks like him, he cannot be detained.

Brad Williams said...

This has sort of already happened, but not in the way I imagined it would:

And it happened with the first person detained under this law no less!

Matthew said...

Why would an American citizen NOT be able to provide a valid name/DOB/social? The instances where they can't/don't are typically instances where they have warrants and are lying. In theory a citizen could be detained to verify, but only if they're an idiot. The case with Muflahi is not really a good example. He was originally detained on charges related to a drug raid. When he was unble to produce documentation as to his legal status, that's when the immigration law kicked in and he was detained long enough to verify it. Once status was verified, he was released. I don't know why people are trying to make things more complicated than they have to be. If someone is in this country legally, or they are an American citizen...just keep your ID on you. A legal immigrant can take their documentation to DPS and get an Alabama ID card. IMO, the only reason someone would be mistakenly detained under this bill is if they are a moron. If someone is stopped and presents valid ID, they will be on their way after the officer deals with the initial reason for a stop. Again, even if they don't have their actual ID card with them, they can still be verified simply by giving the officer their correct information. As for the case of an illegal giving a bogus ID number: if it's completely bogus, it won't show in the computer. If it's a stolen ID, the picture on the ID card they present won't match what the computer returns. In those cases, they're going to be detained anyway because they're in possession of forged or stolen documents and the verification of immigration status will be taken care of during their trip to jail. The bill makes officers personally liable for a false arrest. The officers with any sense whatsoever will do whatever they can to prevent a mistake.

Brad Williams said...


I guess it simply depends on what kind of state/society you want to live in. Personally, I want to live in a less-restrictive state where American citizens, among whom there are plenty of morons, do not have to worry about being detained to have their citizenship verified.