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Latinos Continue To Be (Illegally) Told, 'Show Me Your Papers!'

A number of states have passed 'Show me your papers' laws, but it's not legal to enforce them until the courts weigh in. That's not stopping police.

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What do all of these incidents have in common? They all occurred in states that have passed “Show me your papers” legislation. However, none of these states have legally enforceable mechanisms for implementing the legislation, as their enforcement dates are being held up in the courts. As a result, legal experts argue that the police actions noted above are illegal and a reflection of racial profiling.

Annie Lai, a teaching fellow at Yale University who was a legal consultant for Arizona’s American Civil Liberties Union when she took down the report of the two girls in Arizona being deported, told AlterNet , “We have seen many examples of police referring to new immigration laws as a reason to threaten people and ask them improper questions on traffic stops. Even though they couldn't do this legally, we have heard more accounts of them doing so.”

Azadeh Shahshahani, the director of the ACLU National Immigrants' Rights Project of Georgia, told AlterNet: “This is all of course very troubling in light of the fact that Georgia does not have an anti-racial profiling law on the books; as such, there is limited oversight and accountability for law enforcement engaging in racial profiling.”

Before the proliferation of "Show me your papers" laws, a Pew Center survey conducted in 2008 found that 10 percent of Latinos, or about 5 million people nationwide, had been asked by policies or other immigration authorities about their immigration status in the past year. Well over a third of documented citizens and residents reported fearing for themselves or their loved ones, in spite of their documented status.

“Latinos across the nation are feeling increasingly threatened to be questioned by polices authorities simply because of the way they look,” said Elena Acayo of La Raza, the leading Latino civil rights organization.

Arizona was the first of seven states to pass such a law, the now infamous HB 1070. Since HB 1070 was first signed into law on April 23, 2010, “show me your papers” legislative proposals proliferated throughout the nation, going far beyond Arizona. No less than two dozen states introduced pieces of legislation with “Show me your papers” aspects embedded in them at the outset of the year.

However, the majority of these states did not pass the proposals, partly because of stiff opposition and threatened or actual boycotts, and partly because of a number of reports documenting the runaway economic costs of implementing such legislation. Only seven actually passed and signed the proposed laws.

Of those seven states, all have been embroiled in protracted legal fights mounted by civil rights organizations, immigration advocates and even the federal government.

In Alabama, the most far-reaching of the laws was stayed recently for further consideration by a judge. In Georgia, two key provisions were enjoined by a district court in Atlanta on June 28. In Indiana, a judge enjoined several provisions of a similar law and the state, for the moment, has decided not to appeal it. In Utah, a judge issued an emergency preliminary injunction against its version and arguments are set for September 16th. And in South Carolina, plans are underway to challenge the law as its implementation date of January 2012 approaches.

The ACLU has been the leader among such groups behind the efforts, joined by a plethora of religious groups, community and civil rights organizations. “It's been a busy summer,” said Segura, who has been tracking fast-developing legal developments across the country.

Resistance Grows, Obama Administration Partially Responds

In light of continued efforts to obtain a path toward residency and/or citizenship for undocumented college students, a flurry of activism led by undocumented students and workers has ensued in recent months, adding to a trend seen throughout the Obama administration. It appears to have made some difference, as Obama administration officials were found to be backpedaling just a few weeks ago. An announcement was made, not too long after nationwide protest efforts, that 300,000 cases related to the controversial Secure Communities program would be evaluated on an individual basis, with the aim being to reduce the amount of deportations of undocumented minors.

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