By Michael Bryan
On Friday night you decide to drive to the grocery store to get some arugula for your dinner salad. Your spouse was supposed to buy some at AJ’s while shopping yesterday, but it got left off the list and the damn salad just doesn’t work without a bitter green base. So you get in the car in a bit of a huff and off you go to Trader Joe’s.
You speed just a bit more than normal: you are traveling at 52 in a 40 MPH zone. You groan as you notice the patrol car’s emergency lights in your rear-view mirror and pull into the nearest parking. You get out your wallet and your packet of registration and insurance information, roll down your window and put your hands in view on the steering wheel as you have learned makes police officers most comfortable during traffic stops.
“Do you know why I stopped you?”
“I was going a bit fast, I’m afraid, Officer.”
“Can I see your license, insurance and registration, please.”
“Of course, Officer.”
You shovel over your papers and sink into the seat with a groan as the officer heads back to his patrol vehicle to write you a speeding ticket. What a goddamn inconvenience! It’s not like you were endangering anyone. Now you are looking at a fine or one of those bloody-stupid classes. You are deeply annoyed, but resolve to try to not take it out on the officer: he’s just doing his job.
The officer comes back to your side window and says, “Were you aware your driver license is suspended?”
“What? My license is suspended? Since when?”
“It would appear that you failed to respond to a red light camera violation and your license was suspended.”
A spasm of annoyance crosses your face. That’s what you get for taking legal advice from your crazy brother-in-law. Due process violation, my ass. “Just ignore it, they can’t do anything about it,’ my ass. Dammit! I should have known better.
“I see. Am I going to get a ticket for that?”
“Actually, that is a criminal violation and I will have to cite you for it, yes.”
You feel a little chill down your spine at the word ‘criminal’. I’m going to have a criminal record because of this bullshit? I’m going to kill my brother-in-law!
“I understand officer. I’m very sorry about this.”
“Could you step out of the car please?”
“Please exit the vehicle.”
You are a little annoyed, but decide not to make the officer’s day any harder. You step out of the vehicle.
“Please turn around. You are under arrest.”
“What? Really? Is that really necessary, Officer?”
“Yes. I’m afraid I have to verify your immigration status before releasing you, and cannot do so until tomorrow morning at the earliest.”
You reluctantly turn around and you feel the cold and weight of the officer’s cuffs as he fastens them around your wrists. He nudges you toward his patrol vehicle.
“My immigration status? What are you talking about? You have my drivers license. I’m a U.S. citizen. I’m not even Hispanic! I have a Boston accent!”
“I’m sorry. Your immigration status can only be verified by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and their liaison facility is closed for the evening. I have to take you to jail until your status can be confirmed tomorrow.”
The officer opens the rear door of his patrol vehicle and protects your head and he places you in the rear seat.
“That’s insane! Why would ICE have any record of me? I’ve never left the country. I don’t even have a passport. Why can’t you just give me a ticket?”
“Arizona’s statutes now require all persons who are arrested to have their immigration status verified before release. Any criminal violation now requires me to verify the arrestee’s status.”
“But I thought the news said that my Driver’s License was proof of my citizenship?”
“I’m afraid not. If I suspected that you were in the country illegally but you hadn’t committed any crime, I could accept your license as proof and let you go. But if a person commits a crime and I arrest them, which includes giving a person a criminal citation, then I have to verify your immigration status through ICE, even if I believe you to be an American and have no reason to suspect an immigration violation. Because I can’t do that right now, I have to take you jail until we can verify your status. Most likely ICE will just say they have no record of you, and then we’ll release you.”
“You have to be kidding me.”
“Unfortunately not. Do you need to make a call to have someone pick up your car or let your family know what’s going on? Or maybe you want to call your state legislators? You know, this sort of thing takes up an incredible amount of my time. You know how long it takes to process a prisoner into the county jail?”
“I guess I'm going to find out. I certainly would like to use the phone, please.”
It dawns upon you that you are collateral damage of the unreasoning frenzy to respond to undocumented immigration with poorly drafted, draconian legislation. What would have been a minor annoyance and perhaps a court appearance, has become a major incident.
You end up spending all weekend in jail because ICE wasn’t able to respond to the request for any record of you until Monday afternoon.
Welcome to the GOP’s vision for Arizona.