Tide Has Already Turned in Nevada against “Show Me Your Papers”

LAS VEGAS, NV - The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court today to uphold part of S.B. 1070, Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, shows just how out of touch the court is with reality, said Dane S. Claussen, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada, who noted that “show me your papers” laws condone racial profiling and undermine effective law enforcement.

Nevada has already rejected Arizona’s controversial approach because it harms citizens and non-citizens alike. At least seven (7) anti-immigration bills introduced in the 2011 Nevada Legislature never even got passed out a committee; several were never even heard in committee.

“Nevada is not Arizona, and we will continue to forge our own path,” Claussen said. “We’ve seen the corrosive effects that laws like S.B. 1070 have on a community. The court’s decision will have limited impact in Nevada, because there is growing awareness of how laws like these harm business, undermine police work, and threaten our most basic American values. Anti-immigrant laws modeled after Arizona’s S.B. 1070 are proving to be a failed experiment that we must not repeat in Nevada.”

The court affirmed one of the most controversial parts of S.B. 1070, the so-called “show me your papers” provision. It requires police to determine the immigration status of someone arrested or detained if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that person is not in the country legally.

“That means if, for whatever reason, your last name, color of your skin or your accent allows you to be perceived as ‘foreign,’ you’re vulnerable to being stopped,” said ACLU National Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “That’s not an America we want to live in.”

“Show me your papers laws” exact a heavy financial toll. Alabama’s economy may have suffered as hit of as much as $6.5 billion as a result of its law, according to a University of Alabama study. Arizona saw a drop in sales tax revenue and a jump in the unemployment rate when S.B. 1070 first became law in 2010. Farmers have seen their crops rot and are planting less because the workers they have relied on for decades have fled in fear.

Anti-immigrant laws also drain the resources of county sheriffs and local police departments who do not want the burden of serving as immigration agents while also trying to protect their communities. Immigration checks poison efforts to foster trust and cooperation within all communities.

In response to the ruling, which was not unexpected, the national ACLU has amassed an $8.72 million war chest to mount an aggressive response against these laws. It will help underwrite continued litigation against these measures, lobbying efforts and public education programs. The aim is to beat back laws that encourage racial profiling, undermine local law enforcement and sow a climate of fear that pits neighbor against neighbor.

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