The most controversial part of Arizona’s immigration law is now in effect and civil rights organizations all across the state are busy educating undocumented immigrants about their rights and what to do during traffic stops.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled Tuesday afternoon that police officers can begin enforcing SB 1070’s provision that mandates officers, while enforcing other laws, to question the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country illegally.
Gov. Jan Brewer has repeatedly said she’s confident SB 1070 will not lead to racial profiling but immigrant rights advocates disagree and are teaching undocumented immigrants how to defend themselves during encounters with police.
“We still see people who think that because they don’t have papers, they don’t have rights, but they do and we’re educating them about those rights,” Dulce Juarez, a member of the civil rights group Respect-Respeto, told VOXXI.
Her organization operates a hotline that advises undocumented immigrants and legal residents what to do in case they are pulled over by police officers. She said the main message going out to undocumented immigrants is to remain silent and ask for an attorney during traffic stops.
The hotline began operating in June with the purpose of informing people about their rights, SB 1070 and the deferred action program for undocumented youth. At least 5,000 calls have been recorded since then and another 1,000 are expected this week.
Juarez said they’ve already seen an increase of people calling the hotline ever since the “show me your papers” provision of SB 1070 took effect Tuesday afternoon. Some of the callers, she said, have been from undocumented immigrants who claimed they had their cars taken away after they were stopped and questioned by police. Some legal residents have also called in asking how they could know if they’ve been victims of racial profiling.
Lydia Guzman, who heads Respect-Respeto, said the hotline is also being used to have people call in to report abuses. That information will then be transferred to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and the U.S. Department of Justice. She said the groups would use it to prove that SB 1070 abuses the rights of people.
“We have our eyes and ears open and we’re ready to report abuses,” Guzman told VOXXI.
She also said that during traffic stops, she advises undocumented immigrants to be respectful to police officers, refrain from admitting their undocumented status and show a form of identification such as a passport. As for passengers, she advises that they only give their name and date of birth.
Victoria Lopez, program director of the ACLU of Arizona, said her group filed a lawsuit against SB 1070 two years ago, arguing that the law would lead to racial profiling and discrimination against Latino residents. She said the Respect-Respeto hotline is one of the ways the organization is collecting evidence to continue fighting against the law in court.
“We’re going to continue to document those instances of abuse and raise them to the judge and make her aware of these injustices,” Lopez told VOXXI.
She also said the ACLU of Arizona is preparing a series of documents that will educate people about SB 1070, their rights and how to respond in “an appropriate and legal matter” during an encounter with police officers.
The organization also plans to host know-your-rights forums and events to train members of various organizations who work closely with the immigrant community, Lopez told VOXXI.
Juarez, of Respect-Respeto, said her group is also encouraging undocumented immigrants to prepare an action plan that the entire family could follow in case a family member is pulled over or arrested. This includes having the phone number of an attorney ready, having a notarized letter that states who will have custody of the children in case the parents are detained, and putting vehicle titles under the name of a legal resident who can claim the vehicles in case they’re taken away by the cops.
She also said it is a good idea for people to record traffic stops with a phone or a voice recorder, which could later be used to show a person’s rights were violated.
“We need to keep police accountable and we need to have proof and this is a good way to do that,” she said.