I don’t spend much time in Arizona. I think I have, like, three friends there, which admittedly is more than I have in most states that don’t hug one of the coasts. And overall there’s not much I like to do there. There’s great hiking, of course, and surprisingly good hummus at a restaurant in Flagstaff whose name I can’t recall. But given the current state of Arizona politics, I don’t have a problem getting my outdoor activities and Middle Eastern cuisine locally.
Your situation, of course, may differ. Maybe you have family in The Copper State; maybe you do business there; maybe you have a weekend cabin near Oak Creek Canyon. I don’t know. But you probably already know that, in the midst of the new anti-immigration law recently passed there, traveling through Arizona just got a heck of a lot more interesting. As residents of a border state, Californians have a lot to be concerned about.
According to the new law, police of any stripe — state cops, local cops, sheriffs — may stop any individual they “reasonably” suspect of being an undocumented or illegal immigrant. And if that person doesn’t provide proof of legal immigrant status or citizenship, he or she can be arrested on the spot. That means cops in Arizona can stop anyone they want, at any time, and demand proof of citizenship under threat of being tossed in jail.
The law is not in effect yet. And the chances that it’ll face a pretty huge array of legal challenges are good, so there’s actually a small chance that enforcement may never become a reality. But that’s nowhere close to a certainty, and there’s no guarantee that small-town cops or highway patrollers won’t want to jump the gun.
So how can you protect yourself? Unless you plan on engaging in an act of civil disobedience, the best way is to carry proof of legal immigration status or citizenship. For immigrants, that means a green card, visa, Certificate of Citizenship or Certificate of Naturalization. Citizens should carry a passport (current is best, but an expired, undamaged passport is proof of US citizenship) or a birth certificate. A social security card would also be helpful if you have one.
Finally: If you’re not a legal immigrant, or if you know of any errors or misstatements on your immigration documentation, or if you’ve been having trouble with your immigration documentation, or if there’s any doubt at all as to your immigration status, stay the hell out of Arizona until this whole thing blows over. As I said, there’s a good chance the new law won’t survive the inevitable constitutional challenges, so the longer you can wait to do your business there, the better.
Here’s a list (provided by the US Department of Justice) of attorneys providing pro bono immigration services in Arizona. Here’s another list of pro bono immigration lawyers in California.