April 18, 2008

IDs Unequal Across the Board

If you're an underage drinker caught trying to get into a bar with a fake driver's license, you might get charged with a misdemeanor - if you get charged at all.

But if you're an illegal immigrant who presents a questionable Mexican driver's license to a Phoenix police officer, you'll likely get charged with a felony forgery, held in jail without bond, convicted and deported - sometimes even when the document is real.

Defense attorneys want to know why there appears to be a different standard applied to non-U.S. citizens when the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law, regardless of immigration status.
Few law-enforcement or prosecutorial agencies would address the issue of the two-tier system, and it is next to impossible to gauge how widespread the practice is.

But the effects are clear: Many Mexican nationals arrested end up pleading guilty to a felony and agreeing to leave the country rather than spend more time in jail.

And the price they pay is high, effectively forfeiting the right ever to re-enter the country legally or become naturalized U.S. citizens.

For the full story, click here.

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