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Professor Cohn to Present at Columbia Law School

October 8, 2010

Prof. Cohn at Columbia

Thomas Jefferson School of Law Professor Marjorie Cohn will be a panelist at a Columbia University School of Law symposium on October 22, 2010.

The inaugural symposium by the Columbia Journal of Race & Law is entitled, “So Goes Arizona, So Goes the Nation?: Immigration and Civil Rights in the 21st Century.”

Professor Cohn will be presenting in a panel titled Crime and Immigration.

“I am delighted to participate in this important program about the ways in which S.B. 1070 legitimizes racial profiling and harms all Americans,” said Professor Cohn.

Visit the Symposium website

Here is the abstract for her talk and symposium article:

Arizona Institutionalizes Racism
By Marjorie Cohn

Voters in Arizona passed S.B. 1070, which requires law enforcement to investigate the immigration status of any person subject to a “lawful stop, detention, or arrest” when enforcing any “law or ordinance of a county, city, or town,” if a reasonable suspicion exists that the detained individual is in the United States with “unlawful presence.” When Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was asked what criteria will be used to determine reasonable suspicion that a person is not lawfully in the U.S., she answered, “I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like.” Although the new statute says that law enforcement officers “may not consider race, color or national origin in the enforcement of this section except to the extent permitted by the United States or Arizona Constitution,” it is unfathomable how a law enforcement official could avoid considering those prohibited factors in deciding whom to investigate. Moreover, S.B. 1070 contains a provision allowing any Arizona resident to bring an action in state court challenging any law enforcement agency or official “that adopts or implements a policy that limits or restricts enforcement of federal immigration laws.” In the current climate of xenophobia, this provision will invite increased harassment and intimidation of people of color, both documented and undocumented. This law will also have detrimental effects on society as a whole. Local law enforcement will be forced to divert scarce resources away from serious crime in order to enforce federal immigration laws. Latinos and other immigrants will hesitate to report crimes or cooperate with law enforcement for fear they will be apprehended and deported. Fearful Latino families are already keeping their children out of school. These children will fall behind their peers, and the decline in enrollment will deprive schools of badly needed funding and reduce the resources available to all remaining students in these schools. The chilling effect could extend to other public benefits, including emergency Medicare assistance, immunization programs, and treatment for communicable diseases; this will pose an acute risk to the health of all U.S. residents. The statute could transform the routine enforcement of local ordinances into targeted immigration raids. “Unlawful presence” cannot be determined by physical presence or language, but rather is a legal status established by operation of a complex set of immigration laws. S.B. 1070 violates well-established Fourth Amendment jurisprudence by inviting officers to use “hunches” as a proxy for racial profiling. For these and other reasons which this article will address, S.B. 1070 is unconstitutional.