Civil rights groups are making a last-ditch effort to keep a key provision of the state’s 2010 immigration law from being enforced as early as this coming week.
Legal papers filed Friday with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals contend that the “papers, please’’ provision of SB 1070 is so racially biased that it cannot be allowed to take effect while its legality is being litigated. And they contend that allowing it to be implemented in the interim would result in “irreparable harm’’ to Latinos and other minorities.
Those same arguments were rejected earlier this month by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton. In fact, Bolton said she was bound by a June ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court declaring she was premature in issuing an earlier injunction even before the law ever took effect.
But Linton Joaquin, attorney for the National Immigration Law Center, said Bolton was legally wrong in that conclusion. So, he wants the 9th Circuit to correct her.
The foes of SB 1070, though, are running out of time: Bolton could dissolve her earlier injunction — the one the Supreme Court found flawed — as early as Monday.
At the heart of the fight is the “papers, please’’ provision of the law. It requires police to question those they have stopped about their immigration status if there is reason to believe they are in this country illegally.
Joaquin pointed out that the first round of legal fights — and the first injunction — came in a lawsuit by the Obama administration contending that provision and several others were preempted by federal law. While the high court ultimately agreed on three of the provisions, the justices found no reason to enjoin this particular section even before anyone got a chance to see how the law would be enforced.
That’s not to say that the court had no questions.
In their June ruling, the justices issued a warning of sorts to police agencies in Arizona. They said if there is evidence that SB 1070 results in people being unfairly stopped or detained for long periods of time they would take another look at the law — and potentially bar the state from enforcing it.
Joaquin said it shouldn’t be necessary to let police start violating people’s rights to put the law on hold. More to the point, he said the issues raised by his organization and the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund are different than those raised by the Obama administration.
“Discriminatory intent played a role in the enactment of the law,” he said, arguing there is evidence that Arizona legislators approved SB 1070 knowing it would adversely affect minorities. He also said there is evidence that the requirement for officers to question suspected illegal immigrants “will cause prolonged detention” which is constitutionally prohibited.
And the attorneys for the civil rights groups said having state and local police detain suspected illegal immigrants is “a mandate inconsistent with federal immigration policy.’’
Matthew Benson, press aide to Gov. Jan Brewer, said the last-minute bid to block the law comes as no real surprise.
“These groups aligned against SB 1070 are going to do whatever possible to try to keep this duly enacted, publicly supported law from taking effect,’’ he said.
In their legal arguments, the lawyers for foes of the law say there’s another reason the courts should bar enforcement of the statute: While there is a danger of individual rights being violated, there is no harm to the state by leaving the law unenforceable for at least a little while longer.
Attorneys for the state have consistently argued there is a harm, much of that the financial burden on Arizona taxpayers for having to pay for educational and medical services for illegal immigrants as well as the costs of crimes they commit and having to incarcerate them.
The appellate judges gave no indication when they will consider the request for the injunction or if that will come before Bolton dissolves the earlier stay.