America

In AZ Ruling, Judge Cites Burden On Legal Immigrants, U.S.

Federal Judge Blocks Implementation Of AZ Immigration Law

Opponents of Arizona's immigration enforcement law offer a prayer of thanks after a judge blocked some controversial provisions of the law on July 28, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  John Moore/Getty Images North America hide caption

itoggle caption John Moore/Getty Images North America

In keeping the most controversial parts Arizona's anti-illegal immigration law from taking effect Thursday as scheduled, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolt leaned heavily in her opinion on the notion that the portions of the law she blocked would, if not stopped, place unacceptably high burdens on legal immigrants to prove they were in Arizona legally as well as on the federal government.

Bolton paints of picture of legal immigrants being forced to cool their heels in presumably hot Arizona jails while police authorities attempted to get confirmation that, yes, those individuals they stopped were indeed in the U.S. legally.

Requiring Arizona law enforcement officials and agencies to determine the immigration status of every person who is arrested burdens lawfully-present aliens because their liberty will be restricted while their status is checked. Given the large number of people who are technically “arrested” but never booked into jail or perhaps even transported to a law enforcement facility, detention time for this category of arrestee will certainly be extended during an immigration status verification. (See Escobar, et al. v. City of Tucson, et al., No. CV10-249-TUC-SRB, Doc. 9, City of Tucson’s Answer & Cross-cl., ¶ 38 (stating that during fiscal year 2009, Tucson used the cite-and-release procedure provided by A.R.S. § 13-3903 to “arrest” and immediately release 36,821 people).) Under Section 2(B) of S.B. 1070, all arrestees will be required to prove their immigration status to the satisfaction of state authorities, thus increasing the intrusion of police presence into the lives of legally-present aliens (and even United States citizens), who will necessarily be swept up by this requirement.6

The judge was also troubled by the related scenario of federal officials being overwhelmed by requests from local and state police to run names through U.S. Homeland Security databases.

... An increase in the number of requests for determinations of immigration status, such as is likely to result from the mandatory requirement that Arizona law enforcement officials and agencies check the immigration status of any person who is arrested, will divert resources from the federal government’s other responsibilities and priorities. For these reasons, the United States has demonstrated that it is likely to succeed on its claim that the mandatory immigration verification upon arrest requirement contained in Section 2(B) of S.B. 1070 is preempted by federal law.

It wasn't that the judge didn't empathize with the burdens Arizona contends with in dealing with the problem of illegal immigrants. She said she did:

But that didn't mean she could allow Arizona to tread in territory reserved for the federal government.

The Court by no means disregards Arizona’s interests in controlling illegal immigration and addressing the concurrent problems with crime including the trafficking of humans, drugs, guns, and money. Even though Arizona’s interests may be consistent with those of the federal government, it is not in the public interest for Arizona to enforce preempted laws.

A side note. At least one aspect of the judge's opinion might strike some as somewhat contradictory.

She barred police in Arizona from asking people they stop for speeding or whatever about their immigration status.

But she let stand a piece of the law that allows law enforcement to immobilize or impound vehicles:

... used in the transporting and concealing of unlawfully present aliens where the driver of the vehicle knew or recklessly disregarded the fact that the alien was unlawfully present.

So a cop can't ask about the immigration status of passengers in a vehicle. But if he somehow learns that the passengers were illegal, he can impound the vehicle. And how, one might ask, is the cop supposed to learn of the immigration status if he can't ask about it?

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: