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Arizona Leaders Reach Settlement On Immigration Enforcement Law


In Arizona, there's a new development in the legal battle over an immigration-enforcement law known as SB 1070. In a proposed settlement, the state attorney general agreed to issue new guidance. Police and sheriff's deputies are not to make immigration arrests or prolong detentions in order to check someone's immigration status. From member station KJZZ in Phoenix, Jude Joffe-Block reports.

JUDE JOFFE-BLOCK, BYLINE: After SB 1070 became law six years ago, protests, boycotts and multiple lawsuits followed. Federal courts already struck down much of the law. So this settlement is focused on the last key part. Immigrant rights groups have agreed to drop their ongoing legal challenge. In exchange, Attorney General Mark Brnovich says he drafted new guidance on how police can enforce the law.

MARK BRNOVICH: We have reached a settlement that keeps in place a key provision of 1070, which does allow law enforcement to check the immigration status of those suspected of being in the country illegally. And it allows us to move on, I think, from this issue as a state.

JOFFE-BLOCK: That key provision is what supporters call the heart of the law and opponents call the show-me-your-papers provision. Opponents feared it would turn police into immigration agents and encourage racial profiling. Now, both sides are declaring victory over the settlement. Victor Viramontes is with the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

VICTOR VIRAMONTES: Local law enforcement in Arizona has been directed that they cannot make immigration arrests, and they cannot extend arrests based on suspicions about immigration. And that is new, and it's significant.

JOFFE-BLOCK: Viramontes' organization is part of a coalition that sued over SB 1070.

VIRAMONTES: The state of Arizona, that was the most adamant about trying to do this broad immigration enforcement, has yielded on those two points.

JOFFE-BLOCK: So, for example, if police officers make a traffic stop, and they suspect the driver is an unauthorized immigrant, they can call federal authorities to check. But Viramontes says...

VIRAMONTES: It takes them 10 minutes to give them a ticket. After 10 minutes, they've got to release the person, whether they're a citizen, a lawful permanent resident or undocumented. They just cannot extend the stop.

JOFFE-BLOCK: If police departments enforce the law improperly, Karen Tumlin of the National Immigration Law Center says there will be more lawsuits.

KAREN TUMLIN: What we're interested in seeing is, will it be abided by? Will we begin to see a change in how communities of color and immigrants, specifically in this state, are treated by law enforcement?

JOFFE-BLOCK: Some immigrant advocates are warning the immigrant community to know their rights, since technically SB 1070 will remain on the books. For NPR News, I'm Jude Joffe-Block in Phoenix. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jude Joffe-Block