Immigrants in Arizona can breathe a little easier–for now.
Less than 24 hours before SB 1070, the controversial new law making it a state crime to be an undocumented immigrant in the state was scheduled to go into effect, U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton largely granted the U.S. government’s request for an injunction, and blocked the harshest provisions of the law.
In Phoenix, undocumented immigrants and their families had been nervously considering fleeing the state in the months since SB 1070 was signed by Governor Jan Brewer.
During three hearings Judge Bolton had directed pointed and difficult questions to lawyers for both the Department of Justice and the State of Arizona. After considering the arguments, she ruled the federal government was likely to win in enough areas that an injunction was merited. In her decision, the judge concluded that the U.S. was likely to suffer irreparable harm and that stopping the law was in the public interest.
The judge did not enjoin SB 1070 in its entirety–she went through the law section by section and provision by provision, approving some and rejecting others. She didn’t halt the part of SB 1070 that makes it a misdemeanor to harbor or transport undocumented immigrants, for example. But the areas many opponents of the law were most vocal about, notably the requirement for local and state police to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws; for immigrants to carry papers at all times; and making it a crime for undocumented immigrants to apply for work in public places, were put on hold.
As for the part of SB 1070 that would allow officers to arrest a person without a warrant if they had probable cause to believe that the person had entered the U.S. illegally, the judge wrote:
“By enforcing this statute, Arizona would impose a ‘distinct, unusual and extraordinary’ burden on legal resident aliens that only the federal government has the authority to impose.”
Judge Bolton’s ruling is not the end of the battle. There are currently 7 lawsuits challenging SB 1070 making their way through the legal system. The court is likely to make a final decision on the federal case soon, but either way it is likely to be appealed. Some experts predict the case will crawl all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
We’ll have more reaction to the ruling tomorrow.