BETTER PAPERS PLEASE: Robinson hates SB 1070!


Doesn’t mind stop-and-frisk: Do you understand Arizona’s famous state law, SB 1070?

More specifically, do you understand Monday’s ruling by the Supreme Court?

The Obama Admin had challenged four provisions of the law. On Monday, three provisions were struck down by the court. One provision was upheld.

Do you understand that ruling? Do you understand what the court struck down? Do you understand the workings of the provision which was upheld? On Tuesday morning, the Washington Post’s Gene Robinson offered the following thought about the provision which was permitted to stand:
ROBINSON (6/26/12): In a perfect world, the court would have definitively eliminated the most notorious section of the Arizona law: the requirement that police check the immigration status of anyone who is detained. Because of its chilling invocation of police-state tactics, this became known as the "papers, please" provision.
According to Robinson, the one provision the court upheld was the “papers, please” provision. According to Robinson, this provision includes “the requirement that police check the immigration status of anyone who is detained” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/27/12).

That statement is blatantly false. But Robinson typed it anyway—and the Post put it in print! Later, in an on-line Q-and-A, he snarked about the way this provision will be put in effect:
QUESTION (6/26/12): How can you have a "reasonable suspicion" that someone is in the country illegally without some sort of racial profiling? I understand there are over 1 million illegal Irish immigrants in the country. I'm sure they stand out much more than do Hispanics, if any happen to be in AZ. Does a brogue make you suspicious? My elderly father-in-law came here from Norway in the 1960's and never returned. He qualifies for citizenship but just never bothered. I'm pretty sure he's safe, but you never can tell.

ROBINSON: Tell your father-in-law not to drive through Phoenix with a busted tail light. I'm pretty sure Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe are singling out Norwegians for ethnic profiling.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Across the pseudo-liberal world, various pundits have been staging similar displays of wit.

That said, the reader had asked a perfectly valid question. Unlike Robinson, he seemed familiar with the basic provision in question. He knew a basic fact: Under terms of SB 1070, a police officer must have a “reasonable suspicion” that someone is in the country illegally before he can ask for his “papers.”

Could Robinson get dumber and live? Under terms of this provision, an officer is not "required to check the immigration status of anyone who is detained." As the reader knew, he isn’t even allowed to check someone’s status in the absence of “reasonable suspicion.”

“Reasonable suspicion” is a legal term, like “reasonable doubt” or “probable cause.” There’s no precise way to establish that such standards have been met. But under SB 1070, “reasonable suspicion” is required before a jack-booted thug can pleasingly say, “Papers, please!”

Remarkably, Robinson didn’t know that fact when he wrote his column—or he simply decided to lie. His reader did know, and he asked a good question:

How could an Arizona policeman establish "reasonable suspicion" that someone is in the country illegally? Is there a way to do such a thing absent racial profiling?

In response to that question, Robinson offered some pleasing snark. But that very same day, a reporter had actually shed some light on this important question!

It doesn’t happen very often. But in Tuesday morning’s New York Times, Fernanda Santos did some real reporting about the provision which had been upheld.

Unlike Robinson, Santos isn’t a cable news star. But on Tuesday morning, she did an actual news report which included some actual information about SB 1070. In the hard-copy Times, her report appeared at the bottom of page A12. But she produced some real information concerning that reader’s question.

How might an officer establish “reasonable suspicion?” You aren’t required to like the provision which was upheld. But as opposed to Robinson’s error and snark, Santos reported some actual facts about what is going to happen:
SANTOS (6/26/12): Meanwhile, throughout the state, in an effort to avoid claims of racial profiling, police officers and sheriff deputies are being trained—through an updated version of a video made in 2010, when Governor Brewer signed SB 1070 into law—to understand what are considered reasonable signs that a person might be an illegal immigrant.

A lack of government-issued identification, a foreign vehicle registration or an inability to provide a residential address are among the objective causes for suspicion listed in the video. Others are more subjective, like a person's ''unexplained nervousness or inability to make eye contact,'' ''dress'' or ''significant difficulty communicating in English.''

The police chief here [in Phoenix], Daniel Garcia, said his department has gone beyond the training, posting messages to the community online and offering additional training to its officers ''in a manner to ensure equal justice under the law is provided to every person irrespective of race, color or national origin.''
That represents a fleeting attempt to describe the criteria which will be used to establish “reasonable suspicion.” Like you, we have no experience with such legal matters. Even if we saw a fuller report on the criteria being developed, we couldn’t assess this as a way to establish “reasonable suspicion.”

But suppose a policeman stops a speeding motorist who can’t produce an appropriate piece of ID; can’t produce a local address; is driving a car with foreign registration and is demonstrating ''unexplained nervousness.” Given the norms of American police practice, would it be reasonable to suspect that this driver was in the country illegally?

The passage above is just the start of a full report about the way “reasonable suspicion” might be established in these cases. But Santos did some actual reporting about a very basic part of this poorly-reported state law.

By way of contrast, Robinson pleased the rubes by snarking around in his on-line discussion, after misstating a bone-simple fact in that morning’s column.

This law has been famous for more than two years. But as of Tuesday morning, Robinson’s readers were still being misinformed about the provision which was upheld. And many participants in his on-line discussion didn’t seem to know basic facts about SB 1070. In the questions which follow, two consecutive readers showcased a widespread point of confusion: How could an Arizona citizen prove his or her legal status? What sort of “papers” must a citizen provide when he hears an officer demanding, “Papers please!”
QUESTION: If you are a U.S. citizen, you don't need to carry papers. But how do you prove that you are a citizen? You have to carry papers (birth certificate). This law is just an excuse to harass anyone that doesn't look like the governor.

QUESTION: Today right now someone demands that you have proof that you can be in the US legally. You are on your job and you have no way to prove your American citizenship right now. Geez whiz, you never got a passport or is it at the bank in the safety deposit box? Where is your birth certificate? At home—well that's no help. Off to the pokey with you and no paperwork.
These readers were asking a valid question, even as they pleasured us rubes with their dystopian fantasies. But please note: After more than two years of mainstream reporting, these readers of the Washington Post still didn’t know an elementary fact: Under explicit terms of SB 1070, a driver’s license constitutes unassailable proof of citizenship. After more than two years of mainstream reporting, these readers still didn’t know that basic fact. Instead, they were dreaming pleasing dreams about the way the law was designed to harass “anyone [including citizens] that doesn't look like the governor.”

The “papers” a citizen has to show is his or her driver’s license! To state the obvious, you’re required to show those same “papers” in any sort of traffic stop anywhere in the U.S. In his answer to the first questioner, Robinson mentioned this deflating fact, though only in passing. But when he answered the second reader, he hurried back to his snark:
QUESTION: Today right now someone demands that you have proof that you can be in the US legally. You are on your job and you have no way to prove your American citizenship right now. Geez whiz you never got a passport or is it at the bank in the safety deposit box? Where is your birth certificate? At home—well that's no help. Off to the pokey with you and no paperwork.

ROBINSON: If Gov. Brewer treats everyone in Arizona this way, she gets tossed out of office quicker than you can say "Sheriff Joe." If she only treats Latinos this way, the remaining fragment of her mean-spirited, un-American law gets tossed out by the courts.
The reader seemed to be asking about American citizens. But so what? Just like that, Robinson returned to a pleasing picture in which Governor Brewer has everyone in Arizona “dragged off to the pokey.” He then imagines her having citizens of Hispanic heritage treated this way because their passports are in their safety deposit box. In fact, any citizen has satisfied the “papers, please” cry if he simply presents his driver’s license. A legal immigrant must present (for example) his green card, which he is already required to carry under terms of federal law, the same way you have to carry your license if you head off in your car.

One provision was upheld by the court. Is this provision a good idea? That's a matter of judgment, of course. This isn’t a matter of judgment:

After more than two years of pseudo-discussion, many citizens have little idea how this famous state law works. But then, can you really blame them?

On Tuesday morning, Robinson was still misstating a basic fact about this very famous law. One day later, Kathleeen Parker was still “imagining” how the upheld provision might work.

One day earlier, Santos had provided some facts. Parker preferred to imagine.

After more than two years, why did Robinson misstate that fact? We have no idea, but we will note this:

Robinson is quite upset at the idea that profiling might take place in Arizona. But racial profiling has been underway in New York City for years. Everybody knows this fact—and Robinson doesn’t seem to care about it.

Using Nexis, we find no sign that Robinson has ever mentioned stop-and-frisk in any of his columns. Stop-and-frisk has been under way in New York for some time. But for those who are playing the tribal game, blue states don’t seem to count.

Robinson is a tribal player. He worries, name-calls, declaims and snarks about the very bad people in Zona. But when profiling blatantly happens up north, this tribal star doesn’t say boo.

Does Robinson actually care about this? Or is this just a tribal game? Is this just a big excuse to shout our favorite slogans about that vile other tribe?

Tomorrow: More of the standard confusion


  1. Hmmmm. So I can't possibly understand the Supreme Court's decision because Eugene Robinson didn't get it exactly right in his column and on an on-line chat.

    Poor dumb me.

    1. My Asshat-to-English translator says that your comment means:

      "Yes, Robinson is very wrong -- What's much worse though is Somerby pointing it out."

      Thing works pretty well!!

    2. My statement says exactly what it means in plain English. Since you can't argue against that, I recognize your childish and cowardly attempt to slink away and try to argue against something it never said.

      How "tribal" of you!

    3. Uh, slowpoke, there's nothing in what you wrote to argue over.

      The translation makes sense of your idiocy.

      Robinson indeed "didn't get it right," as you say.

      More succinctly, he got it *wrong.*

      But you're more troubled by Bob pointing it out.


  2. Oh, please -- the factors set forth to establish "reasonable suspicion" are so vague that the police can cite them in any virtually any situation. It's fair to ask: are these factors going be applied to everyone, or only Hispanic people? Everyone knows that Arizona's immigration issues specifically concern Hispanic persons from Mexico, rather than say, Norwegians.

    The larger point is this - without all of the other provisions that the Supreme Court struck down, the investigation requirement is toothless. The police can ask people about their immigration status (just like anyone else could), but they can't actually do anything about it. The Supreme Court's opinion implies that the requirement would be unconstitutional even if it resulted in increasing the length of the detention. The law is basically dead -- this is a fight over nothing.

  3. Somerby says: "According to Robinson, this provision includes “the requirement that police check the immigration status of anyone who is detained” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/27/12). That statement is blatantly false. But Robinson typed it anyway—and the Post put it in print!"

    This is just INCORRECT. From the SCOTUS blog:

    "Section 2(B), popularly known as “show me your papers,” which requires police officers to check the immigration status of anyone whom they arrest or detain and allows them to stop and arrest someone if they believe that he is an undocumented immigrant"

    And from former Solicitor General Walter Delinger:
    "The court did hold that it was premature to invalidate the fourth provision at issue. This part of the law does two things: 1) It requires state officials to determine the immigration status of any person they stop on some other legitimate basis (if they have reason to suspect the person is in the country unlawfully), and 2) It requires that the police must have the person’s immigration status determined before the person is released. The court did not pass final judgment on the first part, the mandatory status check. And it strongly indicates that the second part would be unconstitutional if it were read to allow prolonged detention. “Detaining individuals solely to verify their immigration status would raise constitutional concerns,” the court says. And if—if—the the provision “only requires state officers to conduct a status check during the course of an authorized, lawful detention or after a detainee has been released, the provision likely would survive preemption…” “Likely would”—if read and enforced by the Arizona authorities in this more benign way. At least “absent some showing” of other adverse consequences. And subject to further civil rights challenges. Rather than uphold this provision, the court notes that “the nature and timing of this case counsel caution in evaluating [its] validity” because the law has not gone into effect and there is thus uncertainty about “what the law means and how it will be enforced.”

    1. Don't confuse the Bobettes. They know Robinson is never right. Bob has told them.

    2. what part of "stop on some other legitimate basis" and "reason to suspect" is unclear to the Somerby-haters& to Robinson?

  4. The "papers please" section wasn't per say "upheld." The court just allowed it to go into effect. All that stuff about "reasonable suspicion" can still be challenged.

    I think the makes the Howler and his fluffers liars and tribalists or maybe tribalistic liars.

    1. Because it's not what's really in the laws that matters, it's what might happen. Thanks for your brilliant insight.

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