Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said she will appeal a judge’s ruling that struck key provisions of a state law that would have forced police to determine the immigration status of people stopped for questioning.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton in Phoenix held yesterday that the state can’t mandate that police make a “reasonable attempt” to determine whether a person is legally in the U.S. and then detain him if there is “suspicion” that he isn’t.
Arizona will have a difficult time with an immediate appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, said Peter Spiro, an immigration professor at Temple University’s law school in Philadelphia. Courts would be unlikely to revisit any rulings until Bolton holds a trial on the merits of the case.
“The key provisions of the Arizona law were unprecedented,” Spiro said in an interview. “It’s a sound ruling.”
The U.S. government and American Civil Liberties Union had asked Bolton to bar the state from enforcing the law, which the ACLU claimed would allow unconstitutional racial profiling by police. Bolton declined to grant a blanket injunction against the law.
“The United States is likely to suffer irreparable harm if the court does not preliminarily enjoin enforcement,” the judge wrote. “Even though Arizona’s interests may be consistent with those of the federal government, it is not in the public interest for Arizona to enforce preempted laws.”
The judge also barred enforcement of provisions making it a crime for illegal immigrants to solicit or perform work. In addition, the ruling blocked police officers from warrantless arrests of people they think might be illegal immigrants. Those provisions of the law would have taken effect today.
Bolton upheld parts of the law making it illegal for a person to stop a vehicle to pick up day laborers if it impedes traffic and prohibiting Arizona officials from limiting enforcement of federal immigration laws.
The Arizona statute would have required police officers who come in contact with someone for a law enforcement-related reason to check the individual’s immigration status if they suspect the person lacks proper documentation. The U.S. argued that under the Constitution, immigration policy and enforcement is exclusively a federal power.
Bolton said the Arizona law would allow stops for “very minor non-criminal violations” such as jaywalking or walking a dog without a leash, and its enforcement would result in shifting federal resources away from other priorities. Lawful citizens would see their detention time increased for minor violations, said Bolton, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton.
“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,” she wrote.
Arizona has portrayed the law as a response to failure by the federal government to help the state deal with an influx of illegal immigrants.
“For anyone willing to see it -- the crisis is as clear as is the federal government’s failure to address it,” Brewer said yesterday in a statement. She said the “fight is far from over.”
The policies reflected in the law will assist the U.S. in meeting its goal of curbing illegal immigration, Arizona’s lawyers contended in court papers.
“While we understand the frustration of Arizonans with the broken immigration system, a patchwork of state and local policies would seriously disrupt federal immigration enforcement and would ultimately be counterproductive,” Hannah August, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in a statement. The court ruled “correctly,” she said.
Bolton questioned the parties through almost four hours of hearings on July 22, saying she wanted to be sure to deal with the specifics “provision by provision.”
Arizona is “under attack” from Mexican drug and immigrant-smuggling cartels as a result of federal policies, Brewer said this month. The law, which Brewer has said doesn’t allow racial profiling or discrimination, is a “reasonable and constitutional” response, the state claimed. Barring its implementation would “inflict significant and tangible, irreparable harm” to Arizona, the state’s lawyers wrote.
Immigration activists are likely to ramp up pressure on lawmakers and seek policy changes on a federal level after the failure in Arizona, Spiro said.
‘No Winners Here’
“There are no winners here,” U.S. Representative Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, a Democrat, said in a statement. “No matter what the courts ultimately decide, we will still have wasted millions of dollars and our borders will still not be secure.”
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox yesterday criticized the Arizona law as unfairly attacking immigrants who contribute to the state’s economy.
“I think xenophobic measures taken by Arizona and its government are totally wrong,” Fox said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s “InBusiness” before the ruling.
The plaintiffs also said the law would hinder law- enforcement because residents, concerned that their accents or appearance could trigger a police inquiry into their immigration status, would be less likely to attend community meetings or report crimes.
“What happens if essentially we have 50 different immigration policies?” David Cook-Martin, a professor of sociology at Grinnell College and researcher for the National Science Foundation’s Race, Immigration, and Citizenship in the Americas project, asked before the ruling. “This is a huge issue here. It’s hard to foster trade when unsure what our overall policy is.”
The cases are United States of America v. State of Arizona, 2:10cv1413, and Friendly House v. Whiting, 10cv1061, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona (Phoenix).