Parts of Arizona immigration law blocked by judge
BY JACQUES BILLEAUD & AMANDA LEE MYERS Associated Press
Thursday, July 29, 2010
7/29/10 at 5:39 AM
Related story: Immigrants’ impact assessed.
PHOENIX — A federal judge stepped into the fight over Arizona's immigration law at the last minute Wednesday, blocking the heart of the measure and defusing a confrontation between police and thousands of activists that had been building for months.
Coming just hours before the law was to take effect, the ruling isn't the end.
It sets up a lengthy legal battle that could end up before the Supreme Court — ensuring that a law that reignited the immigration debate, inspired similar measures nationwide, created fodder for political campaigns and raised tensions with Mexico will stay in the spotlight.
Protesters who gathered at the state Capitol and outside the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City cheered when they heard the news. The governor, the law's authors and anti-illegal immigration groups vowed to fight on.
"It's a temporary bump in the road," Gov. Jan Brewer said.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton now will have to decide a question as old as the nation itself: Does federal law trump state law? She indicated in her ruling that the federal government's case has a good chance at succeeding.
The Clinton appointee said the controversial sections should be put on hold until the courts resolve the issues, including sections that required officers to check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws.
"Requiring Arizona law enforcement officials and agencies to determine the immigration status of every person who is arrested burdens lawfully present aliens because their liberty will be restricted while their status is checked," Bolton wrote.
The ruling came just as police were making last-minute preparations to begin enforcement of the law and protesters, many of whom said they would not bring identification, were planning large demonstrations against the measure.
At least one group had planned to block access to federal offices, daring officers to ask them about their immigration status.
"I knew the judge would say that part of the law was just not right," said Gisela Diaz, 50, from Mexico City, who came to Arizona on a since-expired tourist visa in 1989 and who waited with her family early Wednesday at the Mexican Consulate to get advice about the law.
"It's the part we were worried about. This is a big relief for us," she said.
At a Home Depot in west Phoenix, where day-laborers gather to look for work, Carlos Gutierrez said he was elated when a stranger drove by and yelled the news: "They threw out the law! You guys can work!"
"I felt good inside," said the 32-year-old illegal immigrant, who came here six years ago from Sonora, Mexico, and supports his wife and three children. "Now there's a way to stay here with less problems."
Opponents argued the law will lead to racial profiling, conflict with federal immigration law and distract local police from fighting more serious crimes. The U.S. Justice Department, civil rights groups and a Phoenix police officer asked for Wednesday's injunction.
Lawyers for the state contend the law was a constitutionally sound attempt by Arizona to assist federal immigration agents and lessen border woes, such as the heavy costs for educating, jailing and providing health care for illegal immigrants.
The state lawyers said Arizona shouldn't have to suffer from a broken immigration system when it has 15,000 officers who can arrest illegal immigrants.
In her ruling, Bolton said the interests of Arizona, the busiest U.S. gateway for illegal immigrants, match those of the federal government. But, she wrote, that the federal government must take the lead on deciding how to enforce immigration laws.
Supporters took solace that the judge kept portions of the law intact, including a section that bars local governments from limiting enforcement of federal immigration laws. Those jurisdictions are commonly known as "sanctuary cities."
"Striking down these sanctuary city policies has always been the No. 1 priority," said Republican Sen. Russell Pearce, the law's chief author.
The remaining provisions, many of them procedural and revisions to an Arizona immigration statute, were to take effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.
Original Print Headline: Judge blocks parts of Arizona law
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton blocked these provisions of Arizona's new immigration law from taking effect Thursday:
Requiring officers to check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws.
Requiring immigrants to carry their papers.
Allowing officers to make warrantless arrests of suspected illegal immigrants for crimes that can lead to deportation.
Banning illegal immigrants from soliciting employment in public places.
A group of illegal immigrants look at pedestrians as the immigrants are processed for deportation at the Nogales Port of Entry in Nogales, Ariz., on Wednesday. A federal judge on Wednesday blocked the most controversial parts of Arizona's immigration law from taking effect, delivering a last-minute victory to opponents of the crackdown. The overall law will still take effect Thursday but without the provisions that angered opponents — including sections that required officers to check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws. JAE C. HONG/Associated Press