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Border & Immigration

Arizona Girds For Long Legal Fight Over Immigration

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer says her state will ask the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday to let all of its controversial immigration law take effect, a day after a federal judge in Phoenix blocked key parts of the measure.

Brewer called the preliminary injunction a bump in the road.

"This is an injunction," she said. "They haven't heard really the merits of the bill. This is just an injunction — a temporary injunction."


Brewer is right. What's next — if the injunction stays in place — is a full court hearing on the merits of the law. Yet, in blocking the heart of the bill, Judge Susan Bolton's ruling could not have been clearer, says Gabriel Jack Chin, a professor of law at the University of Arizona.

A Win For Obama Administration

"It's basically a complete victory for the United States," Chin said. "She [Bolton] regards immigration regulation as a federal responsibility and a federal power."

Bolton said the heart of the Arizona law usurped that power.

Arizona Senate Bill 1070 requires local police and sheriff's deputies to determine the immigration status of everyone they arrest and then suspect of being an illegal immigrant. In her ruling, Bolton said that requirement "burdens lawfully present aliens because their liberty will be restricted while their status is checked."


Chin says Arizona's Legislature and governor were not thinking about how the law would affect foreign visitors and legal residents.

"They were thinking as is appropriate for them about what's best for the state of Arizona," Chin said. "And I guess that's the problem. When we're dealing with things that have an impact on the entire country and an impact on foreign relations, that's why the framers said it can't be about any given state."

Portions Blocked

The judge also blocked the provision that made it a state requirement for legal residents to carry their registration papers. The judge said that is something only the U.S. government can do. She blocked the provision allowing officers to detain someone who has committed a public offense that makes him or her removable from the U.S. Again, the judge said, only a federal authority can determine whether someone is deportable.

The last piece of SB 1070 that Bolton stopped from taking effect is the portion making it a crime for illegal immigrants to solicit or do work. The judge did let two other provisions barring illegal immigrants from working take effect. She said nothing about the part of the law requiring local police to cooperate with federal immigration officials. That effectively ends any attempts to create so-called sanctuary cities.

The intent of the law — to get illegal immigrants to leave Arizona on their own — is still intact. Chin says he believes that's the real message lawmakers were trying to send. In fact, he thinks the law was too vague to do anything else.

"The law was drafted diffusely," he said. "It was drafted broadly as a test — to see what parts of it would stand up and what parts of it wouldn't."

The law's supporters deny that. One of the bill's sponsors, state Rep. John Kavanaugh, says the state will take it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Immigrant Community Pleased

Meanwhile, while Arizona fights the ruling, Brewer said that if only the federal government can make immigration law, it's time to make and enforce it.

"They need to step up, the feds do, and do the job that they have the responsibility to do," she said.

The Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security issued statements welcoming Wednesday's court ruling. U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) took back his call for people to boycott the state.

Jennifer Allen of the Border Action Network in Tucson, Ariz., said the immigrant community she works with is pleased.

"People are genuinely happy, relieved that there's a great pressure that's been lifted off of people's back," Allen said.

Still, opponents of SB 1070 in Tucson and Phoenix plan vigils and demonstrations, some of which have already begun. Some promise civil disobedience against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's plan to conduct what he calls a crime-suppression operation targeting illegal immigrants in the Phoenix area Thursday.