Proving Racial Profiling in Court Can Be a Tough Proposition


When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the key provision of Arizona’s immigration enforcement law last month, opponents were encouraged that the court left the door open for future lawsuits once the law goes into effect, says USA Today. Legal experts warn that lawsuits claiming racial profiling by police officers — one of the avenues that Justice Anthony Kennedy listed as a way to challenge the law — take a long time to develop and are difficult to win.

“The court has all but said, ‘We’re watching you. All the courts are going to be watching you.’ But it is difficult to do these cases even in the best of circumstances,” says University of Pittsburgh law Prof. David Harris. “The proof is painstakingly built, and it takes time–at least six months or a year.” Kennedy wrote that the court’s decision to uphold it “does not foreclose other pre-emption and constitutional challenges to the law.” Complaints of racial profiling against Maricopa County, Az., Sheriff Joe Arpaio show how difficult the process can be. “In the whole time that evidence has been building … Latinos have been facing the very real horror of being nine times more likely of being stopped,” said Karen Tumlin of the National Immigration Law Center. “That’s the downside of the kinds of proof required in these kinds of cases.”

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