Arizona Immigration Law Takes Partial Effect Amid Protests and Legal Wrangling

BlogHer Original Post

Protesters in Arizona and elsewhere have spent the day decrying SB1070 (.pdf), Arizona's controversial immigration control law, even though a judge's July 28 ruling barred the enforcement of the measure's most contentious provisions.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion (.pdf) for the temporary injunction July 6 as part of its lawsuit (.pdf) against the state of Arizona over the constitutionality of the law. Judge Susan Bolton's temporary injunction (.pdf) targeted sections of the law requiring police officers to verify a person's immigration status if there is "reasonable suspicion" that they are in the U.S. illegally. The injunction also holds up enforcement of a provision requiring immigrants to carry documents attesting to their legal presence in the United States, and one making it a crime for illegal immigrants to seek work. In her ruling, Bolton echoed the DOJ argument that these provisions make it harder for the federal government to conduct its constitutionally-mandated responsibility to carry out immigration and foreign policy.

Huffington Post writer Annie Shields notes that some controversial portions of the law are still in place, including one provision that makes it illegal to knowingly transport undocumented immigrants. Measures promoting greater cooperation between state and local law enforcement officials and federal immigration officials are also intact.

People protesting the implementation of Arizona s immigration law, SB 1070, face off with police along Washington Street in downtown Phoenix, AZ, July 29,2010. Dozens were arrested during the protests. UPI/Art Foxall Photo via Newscom

News of the injunction buoyed the law's opponents. Rep. Raul Grijalva, (D-AR), withdrew the call for "economic sanctions" against the state that he issued shortly after SB 1070 was passed in April. However, both he and other opponents say the fight is far from finished. Perhaps underscoring the ongoing tension, Grijalva's Yuma office was closed July 29 after reports that a gunshot was fired there, according to news reports.

In Phoenix, about 50 protesters were arrested in downtown rallies, according to this report by KNXV, the ABC affiliate station there:

Colorlines has coverage of protests from around the nation. In Philadelphia, WHYY's Susan reported that Phillips Mayor Michael Nutter applauded the injunction, telling about 100 demonstrators who protested the law:

Immigration for some has become the new segregation in the United States, that's what's really going on people need to pay attention to what this is about.

Nutter's comments echo the contention of many of the law's critics, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, that SB 1070 will promote racial profiling. Neither the Justice Department suit, nor Bolton's ruling touched on that contention. However, Arizona law enforcement officials contend that they are specifically training police officers how to enforce the law without discriminating.

Demonstrators hold up banners during a protest on a new U.S. law that requires immigrants to carry their papers at all times in Arizona, near the Angel of Independence Monument in Mexico City July 28, 2010. A U.S. judge on Wednesday blocked key parts of Arizona's tough new immigration law just hours before it was to take effect, handing a victory to the Obama administration as it tries to take control over the issue. The banner reads Boycott to Arizona law. Don't buy US products SB 1070, or Arizona law.  REUTERS/Henry Romero (MEXICO - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

Proponents of the law are undaunted. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's office filed a motion July 29 (.pdf) asking the court for an expedited hearing on its appeal (.pdf) to overturn the preliminary injunction. In an accompanying press statement, Brewer declared,

America is not going to sit back and allow the ongoing federal failures to continue. We are a nation of laws and we believe they need to be enforced. If the federal government wants to be in charge of illegal immigration and they want no help from states, it then needs to do its job. Arizona would not be faced with this problem if the federal government honored its responsibilities.

The bill's sponsor, Arizona state senator Russell Pearce called the injunction, "just a bump in the road," and expressed confidence that the constitutionality of the law will be upheld on appeal:

Blogger LaShawn Barber, who supports SB 1070, echoed the state's legal argument when she asked, "Do states have the inherent authority to enforce federal immigration law?"

Federal efforts at immigration reform have been stalled for years. In 2007, former president George W. Bush's effort to pass a comprehensive immigration reform measure died after fierce opposition from fellow Republicans in the Senate. The compromise measure paired aggressive border enforcement measures with a path to legalization for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. At that time, Bush expressed his disappointment, saying, "A lot of us worked hard to see if we couldn't find common ground. It didn't work."

As a senator, President Obama supported the Bush comprehensive immigration reform effort, which was led by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and his 2008 presidential campaign opponent Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). McCain now supports SB 1070; Obama calls it "ill-conceived." In a speech at American University in early July, he expressed confidence that Congress and activists could eventually get past partisanship to enact a reform measure, although he did not explain how that might happen. He also declared that while border security has improved, enforcement alone will not address the problem:

The southern border is more secure today than at any time in the past 20 years. That doesn’t mean we don’t have more work to do. We have to do that work, but it’s important that we acknowledge the facts. Even as we are committed to doing what’s necessary to secure our borders, even without passage of the new law, there are those who argue that we should not move forward with any other elements of reform until we have fully sealed our borders. But our borders are just too vast for us to be able to solve the problem only with fences and border patrols. It won’t work.

Writing for, Monique Morris made one point that people on all sides of this debate can agree with -- whatever the outcome of the court fight over SB 1070, the fight over immigration reform is "far from over."

Kim Pearson
BlogHer Contributing Editor||


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