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Jul. 28 2010 - 1:30 pm | 135 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Federal judge stops Arizona police from enforcing parts of immigration law

In a new battle between federal government authority and states’ rights, the first shots have just been fired. Key provisions of SB1070, the law that requires Arizona state and local law enforcement to check the immigration status in the course of routine police work, has been stopped by a federal judge in Phoenix, Susan Bolton, according to breaking news reports.

Judge Bolton’s ruling likely rests on the theory that under existing law, determining immigration status is a core responsibility of federal authorities, and not in the domain of states and their municipalities. But the ruling is only an injunction that prevents key provisions of the law from taking effect; a broader federal case will need to determine whether or not the law can ever take effect. That may have to go all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Associated Press notes that Bolton’s ruling freezes 3 components of SB1070: police cannot make a determination of immigration status in the course of law enforcement activity; immigrants will not be required to carry proof of their status at all times; and, undocumented workers cannot be banned from seeking work in public places.

However, according to the Arizona Republic, some parts of the law will take effect tonight:

The ruling says that law enforcement still must enforce federal immigration laws to the fullest extent of the law when SB 1070 goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. Individuals will still be able to sue an agency if they adopt a policy that restricts such enforcement.

Bolton did not halt the part of the law that creates misdemeanors crimes for harboring and transporting illegal immigrants.

Stating that law enforcement must enforce federal law to the fullest extent possible would appear to create significant ambiguity, and allow motivated police to subtly carry out the ‘determination’  provision when they shouldn’t be. This ought to help fast track consideration of the cases that have been filed against SB1070.

The fight between Arizona and Washington over SB1070 will be one of two major cases with outcomes that recast the state of federalism in America. Many states have banded together to sue the federal government over the health care reform legislation passed by the Congress and signed by President Obama, arguing that its mandate that Americans buy health care impedes on states’ rights. It’s going to be a long, and complicated ride, and its political impact will be felt by public servants all over America.


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