Over the weekend, an Alabama law went into effect that requires law enforcement to try to verify the immigration status of anyone involved in a routine traffic stop or arrest if a "reasonable suspicion" exists that the person is in the country illegally. The law criminalizes the "willful failure" of a person in the country illegally to carry federal immigration papers. It requires public schools to ask about the legal status of children born in foreign countries and that of their parents. Contracts knowingly entered into with illegal immigrants will be considered invalid, and illegal immigrants will not be allowed to enter into "business transactions" with the state, including applying for driver's or business licenses.
The reasonable suspicion "standard" gives police unlimited power to investigate anyone's immigration status because there is no penalty to a police officer who gets it wrong. In a normal traffic stop, if a police officer searches a car or a person in it without reasonable suspicion, the fruits of that search will be suppressed.
This blog post is presented by Benowitz LLP. Founded by DC criminal defense attorney David Benowitz, the firm handles criminal, personal injury, and immigration cases.
Under the new law, if an officer investigates someone's immigration status in violation of the law and discovers that that person is in the country illegally, there is nothing to suppress; the person will still be detained and eventually turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). No court reviewing a challenge to a search, even if it were to suppress tangible fruits of an illegal search, such as a gun or drugs, will have the power to release an illegal immigration detained in violation of the law. This law is a recipe for disaster.
This blog post was written by Washington DC criminal defense attorney David Benowitz. David is a founding partner at Price Benowitz LLP, a Washington DC based law firm with additional offices in Maryland, Virginia, and New York. David received an LLM in Trial Advocacy from Temple University and graduated from The George Washington University School of Law.