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Groups File Suit Over Arizona Immigration Law

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Arizona's immigration law has its first court challenges. Hispanic groups and a police officer have become the first to sue to block the measure, saying it's unconstitutional. Supporters of the law say they're confident it will be upheld.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Michele Norris. The legal battle over Arizona's tough new immigration law has begun. Today, Latino activists and a police officer filed the first lawsuits to block the measure. It requires local police and sheriff departments to question people they suspect are in the country illegally.

Coming up, we'll hear from an Arizona congressman who's called for an economic boycott of his state. First, NPR's Ted Robbins tells us about the legal challenges that are taking shape.

TED ROBBINS: The main grounds for legal challenges are that Arizona's law, Senate Bill 1070, is a state attempt to regulate immigration, the sole jurisdiction of the federal government.

Mr. THOMAS SAENZ (President, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund): Indeed if it were not the case that we had only one federal government regulating immigration, we would cease to be one nation.

ROBBINS: That's Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, or MALDEF. MALDEF, the ACLU and the National Immigration Law Center will file what's expected to be the best-funded legal challenge seeking an injunction to keep the law from taking effect in three months or so.

Saenz stood on the lawn outside of the Arizona capitol in Phoenix. He said there are other problems with the law, as well.

Mr. SAENZ: There are equal protection violations in the direction to law enforcement to engage in profiling based on race, based on language, based on accent, based on illegitimate bases to detain someone on suspicion that they are undocumented.

ROBBINS: State Representative John Kavanaugh of Scottsdale was one of the bill's sponsors. He says the law will survive the legal challenges because police will be trained to implement it in a constitutional manner.

State Representative JOHN KAVANAUGH (Scottsdale, Arizona): We have professional police officers that are already doing this for other crimes. They'll be updated on various factors that they can use.

ROBBINS: Kavanaugh also shrugged off criticism from outside the state. Today, the Denver School District banned its employees from work-related travel to Arizona. A small demonstration was held in front of Wrigley Field in Chicago, where the Arizona Diamondbacks are playing the Cubs. In Washington today, Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid and others released a framework for possible federal immigration legislation.

Meanwhile, one Arizona law enforcement official is not waiting. Later today, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is holding one of his illegal immigrant crime suppression sweeps.

Ted Robbins, NPR News, Phoenix.

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