Arizona: What Does a Californian Need to Know?

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.

3 Replies to “Arizona: What Does a Californian Need to Know?”

  1. Engaging in an act of civil disobedience is a great suggestion, in fact it may be the quickest way to get this thing overturned.

    I would suggest that anyone who loves freedom to NOT carry any more papers than necessary. Also, plan for the worst at all times, so you are inconvenienced you are never surprised.

    “An unjust law is no law at all”

  2. 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.

    This has been required by Federal law since 1940. Immigrants such as resident aliens and transients such as people here on visas were told this when they entered the country. People who knowingly flaunt Federal law – especially aliens – should expect trouble when they do so.

    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.

    I’m a little curious why you would advise people on how to deal with a law that you have not yourself read. I say this because if you had read the law you’d skip all this and simply tell people to carry their driver’s license (or, if you don’t drive, a State ID). The law clearly states

    A person is presumed to not be an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States if the person provides to the law enforcement officer or agency any of the following:

    1. A valid Arizona driver license.

    2. A valid Arizona nonoperating identification license.

    3. A valid tribal enrollment card or other form of tribal identification.

    4. If the entity requires proof of legal presence in the United States before issuance, any valid United States federal, state or local government issued identification.

    Why would you tell people to dig out and carry all those other forms of documentation and not tell them to simply carry what just about everyone already has and carries as a matter of course? As you can see from this link, a California drivers license qualifies under point 4 from the section of the law I cited. In fact, that California drivers licence or ID card works even if you are a resident or transient alien. No need to show a green card to satisfy Arizona (although it’s still needed to satisfy Federal law).

    Are you offering your opinion without making even a minimal attempt to know what you’re talking about? Are you permitting yourself to be used as a tool (and a fool) by advocates of beliefs you admire without thinking on your own? Or did you actually read the law but decide to mislead people?

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