A ruling that blocked provisions of the Arizona immigration law from going into effect last July was upheld by a federal appeals court. Image: Flickr/Chrissy Olson's Photostream CC-BY-SA

When the Arizona governor signed the state’s controversial immigration reform into law last year, the Justice Department sued. A U.S. district judge ruled in favor of the Justice Department, temporarily blocking certain parts of the law from taking effect. On Monday a federal appeals court affirmed the district ruling to block such provisions as making it a crime for illegal immigrants to work or look for a job.

Justice Department challenge upheld

The federal government issued a rare challenge to a state law over a divisive political issue when the Justice Department sued Arizona over its immigration law last year. The lawsuit said the Arizona immigration law conflicted with federal law, interfered with immigration enforcement and would lead to police harassment based on suspicion of illegal status. Provisions of the law that were blocked by U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton in a July ruling include requiring police to check immigration status while enforcing other laws, allowing warrantless arrests of suspected illegal immigrants and criminalizing the failure of immigrants to carry registration papers. Monday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that Bolton “did not abuse” her discretion in blocking those parts of the law.

Is Arizona immigration law unconstitutional?

The Justice Department lawsuit challenged six provisions of the Arizona immigration law, but others went into effect in July, including a ban on “sanctuary cities” — towns with municipal laws that make them safe for illegal immigrants. Other provisions of the Arizona immigration law currently in effect include making it illegal to hire day laborers if doing so impedes traffic. Other parts of the law penalizing employers who hire illegal immigrants are also in effect. The federal appeals court ruled only on whether Bolton’s order should be upheld, not on the constitutionality of the Arizona immigration law. The Justice Department is proceeding with a move to have the entire law declared unconstitutional. The majority opinion indicated it would accept the Obama administration’s argument about the constitutionality of the measure.

Legal fight is just beginning

In the majority opinion, Judge Richard Paez said the Arizona immigration law “interferes with the federal government’s authority to implement its priorities and strategies in law enforcement.” Judge John Noonan, who also voted in favor of the Justice Department, said the law damaged U.S. foreign relations, an issue on which “the federal nation must speak with one voice.” Civil rights groups had joined federal lawyers in objecting to the blocked provisions. Republican controlled state legislatures across the country that have been trying to copy Arizona’s immigration law had filed briefs defending it. Monday’s ruling marks the beginning of a legal battle expected to last for years. Arizona Republican governor Jan Brewer has vowed to fight for her law all the way to the Supreme Court.


Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/appeals-court-upholds-justice-challenge-on-ariz-law/2011/04/11/AFbyUKLD_story.html?wpisrc=nl_natlalert

SF Gate: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/04/11/BAPP1IUBN4.DTL&tsp=1

CNN: http://edition.cnn.com/2011/US/04/11/arizona.immigration/

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