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No, the Arizona travel alert isn’t just a stunt

The American Civil Liberties Union is raising eyebrows with the travel alert it has issued for Arizona, even before the state’s infamous SB 1070 (PDF) goes into effect.

American Civil Liberties Union affiliates across the country are issuing travel alerts informing individuals 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.

The ACLU points out that police, especially in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Venezuela-esque Maricopa County fiefdom, “are already beginning to act on provisions of the law” and their efforts are “meant to create a hostile enough environment for Latinos and other people of color that they voluntarily leave the state.”

Let me assure you that the ACLU’s warning, however headline-grabbing, is not over-the-top. Even in Yavapai County, I’ve seen people getting rousted by the side of the road and heard of the door-to-door sweeps. I know of one citizen — of non-Hispanic ancestry — who is leaving the state because she’s married to a Mexican-American and afraid for him and his relations. Maricopa County, where much of the xenophobia is centered, is much worse. My wife’s patients are afraid to drive to Phoenix to see specialists because of the danger of being pulled over and snatched by nativist goons in uniform.

If you are even somewhat browner than the average Norwegian, a trip to or through the Grand Canyon state might be a bit perilous — unless you like being forced to prove your American-ness to armed know-nothings alongside desert roads.