Friday, October 24th, 2014

Truth-stretching about Arizona immigration law

We checked a claim that a barking dog could prompt an arrest under the Arizona immigration law.
We checked a claim that a barking dog could prompt an arrest under the Arizona immigration law.

The Arizona immigration law has kept the Truth-O-Meter busy.

The law, portions of which were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, required that state law enforcement officers try to determine someone's immigration status when officers had reasonable suspicion the person was an illegal immigrant.

The law had been widely characterized as the toughest state immigration law in the country. President Barack Obama’s administration challenged it, saying immigration regulations were a federal matter.

In the past few years, we've ruled on many claims about the Arizona law, which is often described by its bill number, SB 1070. A sampling:

Racial profiling? Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a champion of the law, claimed in late April 2010 that late changes to the law "lay to rest questions over the possibility of racial profiling." We interviewed legal experts who said there were still many unresolved questions. We rated the claim Mostly False.

Overgrown lawns and barking dogs. We checked a claim by Kyrsten Sinema, a Democratic state senator in Arizona, that investigations of minor crimes such as overgrown lawns or barking dogs could trigger immigration checks by police. Experts said she was probably correct, although there was no way of predicting whether police would use the full extent of their powers. We rated that claim Mostly True.

Did police need to suspect something illegal? John Huppenthal, a Republican state senator in Arizona, claimed that under the law, police can't stop someone to check their immigration status unless they think they see something illegal. We rated that claim False because the law leaves open several possibilities for police questioning individuals without seeing or suspecting a specific crime.

Support for the law. We found some accurate claims -- and some really inaccurate ones -- when people discussed public support for the law. Glenn Beck earned a Mostly True rating for his claim that 64 percent of Americans support the law. But we found Brewer, the Arizona governor, was exaggerating when she claimed law enforcement agencies in the state back the law. We rated that claim Half True. Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce was way off when he claimed that 60 percent of Hispanics support the law. Pants on Fire.

Impact of the boycott. The law prompted many groups to cancel plans for meetings in Arizona. As other states considered laws similar to Arizona's, the Anti-Defamation League said the law had cost Arizona $100 million in lost revenue for the hospitality industry. PolitiFact Georgia found some impact but not $100 million worth and rated the claim Half True.

Romney's comments. The Arizona law has been an issue in the presidential race. U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-Texas, claimed that Mitt Romney has said SB 1070 should be a model for a national law. PolitiFact Texas found that Gonzalez was misquoting Romney and rated the claim False.