PHOENIX (May 24, 2010) – Last week, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and Asian American Justice Center, members of Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, jointly filed a federal lawsuit with other civil rights groups to challenge SB 1070, Arizona’s unconstitutional anti-immigrant law that requires police to demand “papers” from people they stop that they “reasonably suspect” are undocumented.
“Arizona’s actions not only interfere with federal law, but will invite widespread racial profiling in violation of the U.S. Constitution,” said Ronald Lee, staff attorney at AAJC. “The precedent it sets – numerous states have already introduced similar legislation — just underscores the need for comprehensive immigration reform at the national level.”
The coalition of civil rights lawyers represents more than 20 plaintiffs, including Arizona South Asians for Safe Families, Asian Chamber of Commerce, Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), Muslim American Society, and individuals such as Jim Shee, a 70-year-old American-born citizen of Chinese and Spanish descent who has already been stopped twice by Arizona law enforcement for his “papers.”
“Arizona’s new law echoes one of the worst chapters in U.S. immigration history,” said Julie Su, litigation director at APALC. “In the 19th century, the U.S. banned Chinese immigrants entirely and required them to carry ‘residency certificates’ at all times or risk deportation. As was true a century ago, the criminalization of an entire race and fear driven by economic insecurity make for bad public policy.”
Asian Americans are frequent victims of racial profiling – from Dr. Wen Ho Lee, a U.S. citizen accused of spying because of his Chinese ethnicity, to South Asian and Arab Americans being profiled as threats to national security, even though such policies have proven completely ineffective.
“For JACL, many of our members, or their family members, were unjustly imprisoned during WWII,” stated Kathy Nakagawa, president of the Arizona chapter of JACL. “So we know firsthand what it means to have our civil rights stripped because of bigotry and ignorance.”
Parties to the lawsuit, such as Arizona South Asians for Safe Families, worry that crime victims from immigrant communities, especially victims of domestic violence, will be even more afraid to seek help as a result of this law. Others worry that just being associated with or helping immigrants will make someone a police target.
“Our members are afraid that this new immigration law will hamper any possibility of an economic recovery, a very real fear given the enormous consumer power of Asian American consumers in Arizona,” said Ted Namba, president of the Asian Chamber of Commerce.
In addition to APALC and AAJC, the legal organizations filing the lawsuit include the Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund, American Civil Liberties Union, National Immigration Law Center, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and NAACP. For more information regarding the lawsuit, visit www.apalc.org or www.advancingequality.org for the press release and the complaint filed in this case.