Arizona Police Can Probe Immigration Status, Judge Rules

Wednesday, 05 Sep 2012 07:45 PM


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Arizona can require police officers to check the immigration status of people they stop or detain, a federal judge said, denying a request to temporarily block enforcement of a provision in the state’s immigration law left standing by the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton in Phoenix today denied a request by the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund to prevent Arizona from enforcing what the civil rights groups called the “show me your papers” 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 Supreme Court that the provision “cannot be challenged further on its face before the law takes effect.”

The Obama administration sued to challenge S.B. 1070, as Arizona’s immigration law is known, saying it encroached on the exclusive federal right to set immigration policy.

The Supreme Court in June struck down much of the 2010 law on grounds that states must defer to the federal government on immigration policy. The Supreme Court said the requirement on police checks of immigration status could take effect, while leaving open the possibility of new legal challenges.

“As the Supreme Court stated, plaintiffs and the United States may be able to challenge the provision on other preemption and constitutional grounds ‘as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect,’” Bolton wrote today.

‘Reasonable Suspicion’

The provision requires local law enforcement to check the immigration status of a person they stop if they have a “reasonable suspicion” the individual is an illegal alien.

“The Supreme Court stated that if police extend detentions for status verification or other immigration purposes,” it will raise “constitutional concerns,” lawyers for the civil rights groups said in a July 23 filing.

Arizona’s law was the first of its kind when enacted in 2010. Since then, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Utah and Indiana have passed measures aimed at illegal immigration. All face court fights.

Arizona has argued it has the right to act because the U.S government hasn’t done enough and it doesn’t have to defer to federal priorities. The state’s 370-mile border with Mexico is the crossing point for half the nation’s illegal immigrants, Arizona said.

The case is Valle del Sol v. Whiting, 10-01061, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona (Phoenix).

© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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