Arizona Limits Police Actions in Enforcing Immigration Law

PHOENIX — Arizona’s attorney general on Thursday detailed limits on the authority of state and local agencies to enforce immigration laws, ending a six-year fight over a state law that gave local authorities broad powers to detain anyone they suspected of being in the country illegally.

In a nonbinding opinion filed in Federal District Court here, the attorney general, Mark Brnovich, recommended specific limits on the actions of state and local police officers: They are permitted to ask about immigration status during a traffic stop or criminal investigation, but they may not extend a stop, detention or arrest simply to verify a person’s immigration status.

“Maybe this should have been done years ago,” Mr. Brnovich said in an interview. “Some folks look for answers, others look for fights. I think in this situation, we’re ready for answers.”

The opinion was the first time that a Republican elected official in Arizona had moved to clarify the limits of the stringent state law, known as S.B. 1070, that was aimed at identifying, prosecuting and deporting undocumented immigrants.

The law required state law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of anyone they stopped or arrested if there was “reasonable suspicion” that the person might be in the county illegally, leading to widespread claims of discrimination against Latinos.

It came as part of a settlement of a lawsuit filed by immigrants’ rights groups in 2010, shortly after the bill was signed into law.

The opinion instructs officers not to make an arrest simply because a person lacks proper identification, and not to use race, ethnicity or national origin as a reason to stop or detain a person “except when it is part of a suspect description.”

By FERNANDA SANTOS for The New York Times
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