DENVER — A coalition of civil rights groups on Monday filed a sweeping lawsuit against Arizona's controversial law that requires local police to enforce federal immigration regulations, hoping to stop the state law before it goes into effect in July.
The suit argues that the law, known as SB 1070, will essentially require police to racially profile and that it violates several constitutional provisions, including the First and Fourth amendments.
The groups also contend it is an illegal attempt for a state to regulate immigration, a federal matter.
The suit was filed by groups that include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center.
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Among its plaintiffs are a 70-year-old U.S. citizen of Latino and Asian heritage who says he has recently been stopped twice by Arizona police and asked for his papers, and another citizen who attends Arizona State University who fears he will need to carry his birth certificate because his New Mexico driver's license does not constitute proof of citizenship under SB 1070.
"This is the most extreme and dangerous of all the state and local laws purporting to deal with immigration issues," said Lucas Guttentag, an ACLU attorney. "This law is shameful, un-American. It will undermine public safety and it is unconstitutional."
There are at least three other lawsuits seeking an injunction to stop the law, filed by a religious group and two Arizona police officers. But the civil rights groups' complaint is the broadest to date. The Obama administration is contemplating a legal challenge.
The law makes it a state crime to lack immigration papers and requires police to enforce it if they suspect someone they stop is an illegal immigrant. Its backers say it is modeled on federal law and is constitutional.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has ordered officers to train in how to enforce the statute without engaging in racial profiling.
The law was passed last month amid widespread anger in Arizona at illegal immigrants crossing into the state from Mexico. Since its passage, legislators in several other states have proposed similar laws.