PHOENIX (CN) - Arizona's unconstitutional immigration law will "adversely and disproportionately impact a large segment of the state population," and "will drive a wedge between police officers and the immigrant communities they serve," the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law says in an amicus brief in Federal Court.
The Center, based at the New York University School of Law, filed its argument in support of the Department of Justice's challenge of the Arizona law.
The think tank claims that by forcing officers to act as immigration officials, "national security will suffer, as police officers lose valuable information that allows them to prevent and solve crime locally and to prevent terrorist acts against our nation."
It claims the law "threatens to undermine" the relationship between local law enforcement and the immigrant community "by making them fearful that interacting with police officers will result in deportation."
A good relationship with the community makes it easier for people to report illegal activities, and to cooperate with law enforcement, the Center says.
Since the law requires that police ask about immigration status if officers suspect that a person is in the United States illegally, people may refuse to report "suspicious activity or even a crime out of fear that doing so may trigger an immigration status inquiry into themselves or someone they know," the Center says. "In addition, even if they are here legally, individuals are not likely to come forward if an incident involves a loved one who is not."
The Center cited the June 5 arrest of alleged terrorists at the John F. Kennedy International Airport
in New York City as an example of cooperation between law enforcement and the fathers of both suspects, one of whom is a Dominican immigrant.
The law has the potential to "adversely and disproportionately impact a large segment of the state population," the Center says, since suspected immigrants must be detained until their status is verified. More than one third of Arizona's residents are Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Center says police officers are burdened with the task of how to enforce and obey the law because the law's language does not provide enough guidance.
Though the law instructs officers to "ignore race, color or nationality when attempting to enforce it, it fails to provide officers ... with guidance as to what constitutes a reasonable suspicion that someone is here illegally, short of an inquiry to the appropriate federal authorities and a potential detention while that is done," the Center claims.