Wash. Post hosts AZ lawmaker to further muddle the debate over the immigration law

With a hand from the Washington Post, Republican speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives Kirk Adams is doing his part to make sure people remain confused about the state's new immigration law.

Adams writes in an op-ed titled “The truth behind Arizona's immigration law” that the modification made to the original law “makes it crystal-clear that racial profiling is not and will not be tolerated.” He adds that “the legislation clearly states that law enforcement officials 'may not consider race, color or national origin' while enforcing immigration law.”

Except it isn't at all “clear” that the law prohibits racial profiling. Adams conveniently cropped the language of the provision, which states:

A law enforcement official or agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state may not consider race, color or national origin in implementing the requirements of this subsection except to the extent permitted by the United States or Arizona Constitution. [emphasis added]

In commentary on the statute provided to the Arizona Republic, University of Arizona law professor Gabriel Chin said of this provision, “I am deeply surprised that anyone construes this law to prohibit racial profiling.”

And he is not alone.

Chin wrote that if the Arizona legislature had actually intended to prohibit the consideration of race, it would not have included the clause that appears above in bold. He explained: “The fact that the last clause is part of the law invites profiling followed by legal tests of whether it is appropriate in particular cases.”

As Politifact.com reported, other legal experts reject the claim that the law contains a “crystal clear” prohibition on racial profiling:

While the new phrasing on racial profiling seems straightforward -- and while the new language will provide opponents of racial profiling a useful weapon in court -- legal experts we spoke to said that it's not “crystal clear and undeniable” that racial profiling will be impossible under the law.

Rather, the Arizona law, even in its revised version, sets up a clash of constitutional principles that could be fought over in the courts for years to come. Indeed, the law almost demands court involvement by expressly authorizing police to consider race “to the extent permitted by the United States or Arizona Constitution” -- something that is far from nailed down.

A big reason for uncertainty is that there is Supreme Court precedent for allowing racial profiling under similar circumstances to those envisioned in the Arizona law.

The New York Times also reported that some civil rights lawyers “note that federal courts and the Arizona Supreme Court have upheld the right of federal agents enforcing immigration law to consider someone's ethnicity, especially at or near the border, when deciding to question someone suspected of being an illegal immigrant.” Meaning the Arizona law is not at all “crystal-clear” on racial profiling and Arizona's lawmakers made sure it wasn't.