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Your Papers Please: Arizona-Style Immigrant-Profiling Law Introduced in Florida

| December 2, 2010

The new package deal. (Elvert Barnes)

On Nov. 9 two Palm Coast residents were pulled over by a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy for a wrongful right turn. John Hardison was at the wheel. His wife Inna was in the passenger seat. The deputy asked for John’s paperwork—license, insurance, registration—and that part of the traffic stop was routine enough. But when a back-up deputy arrived, that deputy came over to Inna’s side of the car and asked for her papers. To repeat: She was in the passenger seat. Drivers must have their driver’s license, but otherwise no one is required to carry an ID in the United States, or present it to law enforcement. Startled, Inna asked the deputy: “May I ask you why?” His reply: “Because I asked you nicely.”

Not looking for an argument, she complied, presenting her Green Card, which the deputy then ran through his computer and returned without issues. The Hardisons went on their way.

Two days later Flagler County Sheriff Don Fleming was asked about that stop during a town hall meeting. “In all the years I’ve been in law enforcement, that’s a normal procedure to ask for ID,” Fleming said. “When you have probable cause on something, whether it be a seat belt, whether it be a neighborhood that they were in that’s a high-crime area where we’re profiling cars going in and out of there, we’re looking at people going into neighborhoods during the day, we’re in an area that’s getting hit by burglaries. Evenings. There’s a whole gambit of things that you can look at.”

But it was just before noon, at the intersection of Belle Terre Parkway and State Road 100, one of the busiest intersections in the city. Inna Hardison’s only “probable cause” was her accent when she spoke during the initial encounter with the first deputy: she is originally Russian. Remarkably, the sheriff and one of his spokesmen—Kevin Byrne—insisted that there was nothing unusual about asking individuals, whether pedestrians or non-drivers, for their ID in a variety of circumstances. People almost always comply, neither knowing that there is no requirement that they produce identification or fearing to question a law enforcement officer.

Yet routinely asking people for their ID—let alone using the ID checks to verify, say, an individual’s immigration status, which local law enforcement is not responsible for—raises serious questions of balance between police powers and individual rights. That balance, and those rights, are being increasingly blurred as local authorities broaden the scope of their routine police powers and one state—Arizona—has passed a law making it legal for local law enforcement to act as immigration agents. That law triggered widespread condemnation, boycotts of Arizona products and tourism, and lawsuits. It was mostly struck down in July by Susan Bolton, a federal judge in the 9th circuit. Among the provisions declared unconstitutional was one that called on law enforcement to verify individuals’ identity.

Florida may now go where Arizona attempted to go—granting sheriff’s deputies and local city police officers the power to demand identification of any individual vaguely suspected of being an undocumented immigrant to verify immigration status. Any immigrant caught without showing proof of legal residency would face a fine of $100 and a misdemeanor charge. In other words, tourists and permanent residents, including millions who carry Green Cards (like Inna Hardison) would be fined and charged with a misdemeanor if they did not carry their papers at all times. The bill was filed by Sen. Mike Bennett, a Bradenton Republican and a member of the new Florida Senate leadership.

The proposed law would give wide powers to local law enforcement during traffic stops. It states, in part, that if, during any traffic stop or arrest or detention by any local or state law enforcement personnel, “reasonable suspicion exists that the person stopped, detained, or arrested is an alien and is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person” by requiring proof of legal residency or visiting status. Lacking that, the individual may be detained. Should the immigration status prove illegal, the individual may be transferred to a federal immigration detention facility.

Bennett, repeating the same justifications voiced by supporters of the Arizona law, says he’s merely targeting the “criminal element” in undocumented immigration. He doesn’t see a difference between asking a driver for a driver’s license or an immigrant for a Green Card.

Critics aren’t convinced. “It’s not the job of a state to enforce immigration laws,” Sally Schmidt, executive director of the Equal Justice Center in Fort Myers, told Florida Capital News. She said the law would invite discrimination and lead to confusion. Many immigrants are in the country legally but still waiting for proper documentation, she said. Detaining them for not having the right paperwork would violate their civil rights. “People are in such different states of immigration status,” she said. “These are people who are paying taxes and performing valuable work.”

Before it was struck down, Arizona’s law had to clear the desk of a Democratic governor who had reservations about its strong-arming provisions. Gov.-elect Rick Scott had no such reservations. He is fully supportive of the proposed Arizona-style law in Florida.

Inna Hardison says the development in Florida was “a matter of time.” She has been jailed once before for not carrying her papers. It was 20 years ago. It happened in Moscow.

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11 Responses for “Your Papers Please: Arizona-Style Immigrant-Profiling Law Introduced in Florida”

  1. Diarmuid says:

    On the Carrying Green Card at all time , I Carried mine all the time untill i got robbed 2 yrs ago, I Cant afford to get a Replacement card. Some People Wont carry it all the time, because they want it in a safe place. and cant afford to get a new one or replacement,

  2. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Racial politics are disgusting wherever they are found.

    Your characterization of the Arizona law is incorrect and as you must know, racial (immigrant?) profiling isn’t permitted no matter the media hype to the contrary, only probably cause allows requests for ID.

    Those same conditions prevail everywhere in the U.S.

    There not being probable cause in the Palm Coast case, the Hardison’s should contact an attorney and file charges against the officer and the sheriff’s department.

    You are right, there is no law requiring ID’s in the U.S. and people should be made aware that there is no law that requires they show an ID at the whim of a sheriff or any other officer of the law.

  3. elaygee says:

    The last policeman who asked someone in my family for their ID shipped my granfather to Auschwitz where he was executed. I do NOT want to hear any form of “zeigen Sie mir Ihre Papiere” from a law enforcement officer unless a crime within his or her jusrisdiction is involved. Immigration is not a state or local crime. States cannot make or enforce immigration laws. There are no Florida passports or greencards and having an accent is no reason to presume a crime.

  4. Gervais says:

    Are Republicans trying to ditch the Latino vote? They are after all the fastest growing minority group in the U.S.

  5. NortonSmitty says:

    Pierre, I’m pretty sure your all wrong about the right to refuse ID to the police as a passenger at a traffic stop. I recall in the 90’s the Supremes ruled that officer safety overruled any right to privacy as a passenger in a car was close enough that the officer had the right to know who he was dealing with. There have been so many rights lost in the last few decades that it’s tough to keep track, but I remember that one seemed to particularly piss me off at the time, so I remember it today.

    Will Google and get back.

  6. NortonSmitty says:

    OK, I found more than a dozen cases. As far as I understand them, the passenger can be asked to step out of a vehicle and be searched or can be asked for ID to write up a seat belt or any suspected criminal activity. But just a request for ID seems to be a grey area as far as I can tell.

    This link covers it best: http://www.llrmi.com/articles/legal_questions/2-apr08.shtml I swear It was allowed..

  7. Norton, I am not an attorney, but I think that while the law enforcement personnel can ask for IDs, the person can either volunteer that information or refuse. I believe the only info one is required to provide is name and address or residence or something to that effect. I handed over my ID, which I suppose would mean I volunteered. I didn’t have to, and then they would have had an actual cause to detain me further. It seems that come October of next year – there won’t be a need for cause of any kind.

  8. BOURDER PATROLL IMEGRA says:

    THEY NEED TO KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK .AND IF THEY DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT PAPERS TO BE IN THE U.S.A SEND THEM PACKING AND MAKE THEM TAKE THE REST OF THE NON-US CITIZEN IN THERE FAMILY BACK WHERE THEY CAME FROM AND MAYBE A US CITIZEN CAN GET A JOB OR THEY CAN CUT BACK ON THE NON-US MOUTHS THAT ARE ON THE WELFARE TIT SUCKING THE LIFE OUT OF OUR SSI— YOU KNOW WHEN WE ARE GOING TO TURN 65 AND HAVE WORKED ALL OUR LIVES AND PAYED INTO SSI AND THESE NON-US CITIZENS COME HEAR AND NEVER PAYED ONE RED CENT INTO IT BUT SOME HOW THEY CAN SUCK THE LIFE RIGHT OUT OF SSI . THIS IS ONE SCREWED UP COUNTRY AND ELEYGEE YOU DIDNT LEARN ANYTHING FROM YOUR GRANDFATHER NOW DID YOU ?

  9. Bourder patroll (ironic spelling conventions) – who is the “they” you are referring to, doing a good job? I have been in this country somewhat longer now than the one I was born in. Math-wise, 20 years of my taxes were paid here, if that helps you visualize the contributions of those non-US people better. Welfare tit sucking, really? I would very curious to know how many immigrants, legal and otherwise, you’ve personally run across in your life. Few of the ones I’ve met are currently stealing your SSI or welfare.
    Lastly, I think Eleygee learned plenty from the experience in her post – but you seem to have misread that bit of history.

  10. emile says:

    I find this horrifying! If pillars of the community like the Hardisons can be asked for their papers, what about the rest of us? And Sheriff Fleming treated it as a commonplace occurence.

    Where is the outrage?

  11. Emile – personally, I find it rather decent of them that at least they don’t discriminate based on name-recognition. Then again, the Hardisons aren’t all that popular.:-)

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