Arizona lawmakers have tweaked the state’s tough immigration law in a move officials said was intended to rebut claims the bill will lead to racial profiling.
The controversial immigration law approved by Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer last week has drawn a storm of protest from civil rights activists who claim it will open the door to racial profiling in the southwestern border state.
Supporters of the law have repeatedly insisted that the measure expressly forbids racial profiling but said Friday that amendments made by lawmakers late Thursday had clarified the issue.
The initial law signed by Brewer last week said police were required to determine someone’s immigration status if they formed a “reasonable suspicion” during any “lawful contact” with an individual.
That passage has now been changed from “lawful contact” to “stop, detain or arrest.”
Another passage which read that law enforcement officers were prevented from “solely” using race as grounds for suspecting someone is in the country has been changed to remove the word “solely.”
A spokesman for Arizona Governor Brewer insisted the changes made it clear racial profiling was illegal.
“We believe that with these clarifications, if there were questions in the past it is now undeniable that racial profiling is specifically illegal,” the spokesman told AFP.
“Race cannot be considered in any way as grounds for any kind of arrest. It makes it perfectly clear that there is no potential for abuse.”
Rights activists said the changes were no guarantee that racial profiling would not take place.
“Just because the legislation says that racial profiling is not allowed, it does not make it so,” American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona legal director Dan Pochoda told AFP.
“The fact that there is some prohibition on paper does not guarantee a change in results. We already know that some law enforcement in Arizona are already using racial profiling as their tactic of choice.”