New Mexico – U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman today asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to consider how New Mexicans traveling in Arizona may be affected by that state's new immigration law.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is currently reviewing the legality of Arizona's recently enacted law concerning immigration enforcement by state authorities.
The law requires an Arizona law enforcement officer to verify the immigration status of individuals who come in contact with the police if the officer has "reasonable suspicion" that the person is unlawfully present in the United States. The law states that a person can demonstrate lawful status by providing: (1) an Arizona issued license; (2) a tribal identification card; or (3) a federal, state, or local government identification card if the entity requires proof of legal presence when the identification is issued.
"While the Arizona law allows state-issued identification documents to be presented as evidence that a person is lawfully present in the United States, residents of states that do not require individuals to demonstrate legal status, such as New Mexico, could be detained by police while their citizenship or immigration status is verified," Bingaman wrote to Holder.
"For New Mexicans, and the residents of similarly situated states, the detention and investigation required to check a person's status would likely be much more than a brief check of a driver's license during a traffic stop. This could result in the detention of U.S. citizens based on a suspicion standard which has been interpreted as articulable facts that amount to little more than a hunch. It would be troubling if New Mexicans and the residents of other similarly situated states would need to carry U.S. passports or other proof of citizenship when traveling through or visiting Arizona," he wrote.
Bingaman asked Holder to evaluate New Mexico's situation as part of his department's ongoing investigation of the constitutionality of the law. Other states that may be in a similar situation to New Mexico's include Hawaii, Utah, Washington and Maryland.