Officials: Arizona bill not likely to have much local impact

Officials polled across New Mexico doubt the Supreme Court upholding the most-discussed portion of Arizona's Senate Bill 1070 will have much local impact.

But the reason why is, like Monday's decision, somewhat split.

In a 5-3 opinion released Monday, the high court eliminated three portions of the law. Portions struck down by the Supreme Court included:

  • Making it a state crime for an immigrant to not carry papers.
  • Allow for warrantless arrest in some situations.
  • Make it a crime for an illegal immigrant to seek work in Arizona.

The portion kept, Section 2B, requires an officer to make a reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of a person stopped, detained or arrested if there's reasonable suspicion that person is in the country illegally.

State Rep. Dennis Roch, who represents Curry and Roosevelt counties in his district, said the ruling shows a clear message by the court that immigration was the duty of the federal government.

"America has to have an honest and frank discussion on immigration policy," Roch said, while noting that New Mexico taxpayers expect a bare minimum of local, state and federal agencies cooperating on the issue.

Peter Simonson, director of the New Mexico American Civil Liberties Union, said $9 million has already been raised nationally in preparation of litigation regarding the Arizona bill — which has been the subject of challenges since its passage in 2010.

"Right now, we don't know when or even if Section 2B will be implemented in Arizona, but let's assume it is," Simonson said. "The first implication is New Mexico is a very diverse state. We neighbor Arizona and it's very reasonable to assume New Mexicans who are people of color are going to be traveling through Arizona."

That, Simonson said, would lead to detentions of questionable legality on the foundation of racial profiling.

"In most instances," Simonson said, "the only cues officers are going to encounter that might give rise to that suspicion (of illegal immigration) are race-related. That experience has been borne out."

Roch said the bill did have an immediate impact on New Mexico, as the state saw an influx of Mexican-Americans after Arizona passed the bill. The people may or may not have been illegal immigrants, Roch said, but the "fear factor" drove them elsewhere all the same.

Clovis Police Chief Steve Sanders said the ruling showed that the court found some compromises. But he doubts a long-term impact with his department.

"First, I don't see New Mexico passing something like that, to be honest," Sanders said. "We're probably very lenient with illegal aliens and undocumented workers. I don't see a change in how we do business. We try to treat everybody fairly and equitably anyway."

Roch agreed with Sanders' outlook, noting that the state probably doesn't "have the appetite" for copycat legislation. The factor he said could change that would be in the unlikely event the Obama administration had a "knee-jerk reaction" to the ruling that would give border states a vested interest to react.

"So long as the federal and the state are working together as they are now," Roch said, "I don't foresee that happening."

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