Will Police Officers Use “Show Me Your Papers” Provisions Fairly?


Courts are beginning to allow the so-called “show me your papers” clauses of tough new state immigration laws to take effect while warning states that the U.S. Constitution frowns on any hint of profiling, says the Christian Science Monitor. After the Supreme Court upheld “show me your papers” provisions in Arizona, lower courts are beginning to lift injunctions on similar laws in Georgia and Alabama. As these laws take hold, focus is likely to shift to local and state police, who stand to face enormous pressure to use their expanded discretionary powers fairly and judiciously.

“The idea that this is the rubber hitting the road is exactly right,” says American University law Prof. Stephen Vladeck. “Law enforcement already has lots of opportunities to stop most people on a daily basis for entirely minor offenses. The question is, stopping people for spitting on the sidewalk or driving with a broken taillight, are we going to see those increase in jurisdictions [ ] that have the 'papers, please' provision? In other words, you cannot use the possibility that someone is undocumented to justify the stop in the first place.”

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