Arizona Can Start Immigrant Status Checks, Judge Rules

An Arizona requirement for local law enforcement to conduct immigration-status checks, left standing by the U.S. Supreme Court, can take effect, a judge said.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton in Phoenix lifted a preliminary injunction today on what civil rights groups call the “show me your papers” provision. The judge permanently barred Arizona from enforcing three other provisions of the state’s first-of-its-kind crackdown on illegal immigration that the Supreme Court found were preempted by federal law.

The June 25 ruling by the Supreme Court was an election-year victory for President Barack Obama, whose administration had challenged the Arizona law and who is vying with Republican candidate Mitt Romney for Hispanic votes. Supporters of the law say the federal government isn’t doing enough to crack down on an estimated 11.5 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.

“Today is the day we have awaited for more than two years: the injunction against the heart of SB 1070 has been lifted,” Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said in a statement. “With SB 1070 in effect, state and local officers will be empowered to inquire about an individual’s immigration status, but only as part of a legal stop or detention and when the officer has reasonable suspicion.”

‘Reasonable Suspicion’

The measure left standing by the Supreme Court requires local police to check the immigration status of a person they stop if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that the individual is an illegal alien. The Supreme Court left open the possibility of future legal challenges to the provision.

“It’s good the three provisions are permanently enjoined,” Linton Joaquin, general counsel with the National Immigration Law Center, said in a phone interview. “We’ll continue to fight to have this provision blocked as well.”

Bolton on Sept. 5 rejected a request by a group of civil rights organizations, including the National Immigration Law Center, to temporarily prevent Arizona from enforcing the provision until the courts have ruled whether it violates the U.S. Constitution.

The judge said she wouldn’t ignore the “clear direction” of the U.S. Supreme Court that the provision “cannot be challenged further on its face before the law takes effect.”

The civil rights groups on Sept. 13 filed an emergency motion with the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco to prevent Arizona from implementing the law while they are appealing Bolton’s decision.

The case is U.S. v. Arizona, 10-1413, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona (Phoenix.)

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