As Holiday Weekend Approaches, ACLU Issues Alert to California Residents Traveling to Arizona

Arizona Racial Profiling Law Threatens Civil Liberties

Media Contact:, (415) 621-2493

Article Media

ACLU of Northern CA

San Francisco – In response to civil liberties threats caused by the recent passage of Arizona's racial profiling law, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU-NC), along with the ACLU of Southern California and the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, issued a travel alert today informing California residents of their rights when stopped by law enforcement when traveling in Arizona.

The unconstitutional law, known as SB 1070, requires law enforcement agents to demand "papers" from people they stop who they suspect are not authorized to be in the U.S. If individuals are unable to prove to officers that they are permitted to be in the U.S., they may be subject to warrantless arrest without any probable cause that they have committed a crime.

Although the law is not scheduled to go into effect until July 29, ACLU of Northern California is concerned that some law enforcement officers are already beginning to act on provisions of the law. Moreover, there has been a history of rampant racial profiling by law enforcement in Arizona, especially in Maricopa County, as well as a stated anti-immigrant policy of "attrition through enforcement" by Arizona lawmakers meant to create a hostile enough environment for Latinos and other people of color that they voluntarily leave the state.

"California residents should know their rights when encountering law enforcement officials in any state, and especially before traveling in Arizona," said Julia Harumi Mass, Staff Attorney of ACLU of Northern California. "We are deeply concerned that under this law, people who look 'foreign' are more likely to be stopped for minor traffic infractions like jaywalking and then asked for their 'papers' if police believe, just by looking at them, that they could be in the country unlawfully."

In addition to the travel alert, the ACLU has made available in English and Spanish materials on individuals' rights if stopped by law enforcement in Arizona or other states as a result of SB 1070 or for any other reason. The materials include a downloadable card with instructions – applicable in any state – on coping with vehicle stops and questioning by police, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents or the FBI, as well as a Frequently Asked Questions document about SB 1070.

"Our goal is to protect California residents from illegal harassment," said Mass. "A high proportion of our state residents fit the racial profile that police will inevitably use to enforce the law, and California has the largest population of immigrants in the U.S. Unfortunately, it is very possible that California residents will experience racial profiling and unlawful detentions in Arizona as a result of this extreme and discriminatory measure."

The ACLU and other leading civil rights organizations filed a lawsuit challenging the Arizona law in May, but until the law is struck down, the ACLU warns that individuals traveling in Arizona must be aware of their rights if stopped there.

Materials informing individuals of their rights when stopped by law enforcement can be found at

More information about the Arizona law, including an ACLU video and slide show, can be found at:

More information about the lawsuit, including information on co-counsel and plaintiffs, can be found at:

More information about the ACLU of Northern California's work on unlawful detentions and racial profiling can be found at:

Main Article Content