ACLU puts out travel alert for people traveling to Arizona due to new "racial-profiling" law

Planning on traveling to Arizona over the upcoming holiday weekend? A fan of dry heat? The American Civil Liberties Union, joined by the Colorado branch, has issued a travel advisory due to the recent passage of SB 1070, which the organization describes as "Arizona's racial-profiling law." One reason, says ACLU of Colorado communication director Erik Maulbetsch, is controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

As Maulbetsch acknowledges, SB 1070 isn't law yet, and won't be until July 29. However, he continues, "Maricopa County, in particular, has had a history of racial profiling. So we wanted to use this as an opportunity to let people know the law has the potential of expanding policies throughout the state that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has been using."

With such procedures in mind, the ACLU has also developed a downloadable wallet card letting travelers know their rights if they're stopped by immigration agents or the FBI. Although the information has been tweaked for Coloradans, Maulbetsch says, "we tried to keep it very broad, so people can take it anywhere."

No reports about Coloradans being prematurely subjected to SB 1070 treatment have reached Maulbetsch thus far, although he can't speak for others in the Colorado office. Whatever the case, he sees the travel alert as a practical notion as well as a way of casting the new law in a negative light.

In his view, "the more you know about your rights, the better equipped you are to exercise them."

Here's a release with more information on the development:

As Holiday Weekend Approaches, ACLU of Colorado Issues Alert To State Residents Traveling To Arizona

Arizona Racial Profiling Law Threatens Civil Liberties

DENVER -- In response to civil liberties threats caused by the recent passage of SB 1070, Arizona's racial profiling law, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado issued a travel alert today informing Colorado residents of their rights if stopped by law enforcement while traveling in Arizona. SB 1070 requires law enforcement agents to demand "papers" from people they stop whom they suspect are not authorized to be in the U.S. If individuals are unable to prove to officers that they are permitted to be in the U.S., they may be subject to warrantless arrest without any probable cause that they have committed a crime.

Although the law does not go into effect until July 29, there has been a history of rampant racial profiling by law enforcement in Arizona, especially in Maricopa County. Since 2007, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office under Sheriff Joe Arpaio 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. SB 1070's stated policy of "attrition through enforcement" effectively becomes an invitation to expand Arpaio's unconstitutional racial profiling policy to all Arizona law enforcement agencies, potentially creating a risk for any Colorado travelers whom Arizona authorities decide "fit the profile."

"All Coloradans should understand their rights before traveling in Arizona," said Ray Drew, Executive Director of the ACLU of Colorado. "Under this law, people who look 'foreign' are more likely to be stopped for minor infractions--like a broken taillight--and then asked for their 'papers' if police believe, based on their looks, that they could be in the country unlawfully."

In addition to the travel alert, the ACLU has made available, in English and Spanish, materials on individuals' rights if stopped by law enforcement. The materials include a downloadable card with instructions on coping with vehicle stops and questioning by police, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents or the FBI.

"Nearly twenty percent of Coloradans fit the racial profile that police will undoubtedly use to enforce SB 1070," said Drew. "And given Colorado's proximity to Arizona, our goal is to make sure that everyone planning to drive to or through the state knows their rights should they encounter harassment from law enforcement."

The ACLU and other leading civil rights organizations filed a lawsuit challenging the Arizona law in May, but until the law is struck down, the ACLU warns that individuals traveling in Arizona must be aware of their rights if stopped there. More information about the lawsuit, including information on co-counsel and plaintiffs, can be found at:

Materials informing individuals of their rights when stopped by law enforcement can be found at:

More information about the Arizona law, including a video and slide show, can be found at:

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
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