Before a painting of Martin Luther King Jr., a photograph of Cesar Chavez and a poster of a Mexican child with the words “We are humans,” “Stop SB 1070” and “End 287-G now,” a group of Hispanic leaders from around the state reacted with a sense or relief to a federal judge’s decision to put the heart of the state’s immigration law on hold and vowed vigilance until it’s completely quashed.
U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton placed an injunction on perhaps the most controversial parts of the law Wednesday in federal court in Phoenix, blocking among other parts the “reasonable suspicion” section that would allow police to arrest and detain suspected illegal immigrants without a warrant. She also temporarily blocked the part of the law requiring the carrying of federal immigration documents and prohibited the state from making a new law to stop illegal immigrants from securing work in the state.
More than a dozen Hispanic community leaders gathered at the El Portal restaurant in downtown Phoenix on Wednesday to express their feelings about the judge’s decision and vent concern over continued arrests of day laborers who impede traffic, and what they called rampant racial profiling.
Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, who led the discussion, said people in the Hispanic community now could sleep better at night knowing the most controversial parts of the law cannot be enforced, but more work needs to be done. Community forums for the Hispanic community are being scheduled to explain what parts of the law will continue to be enforced, she said.
“There is a feeling of relief that’s incredible,” Wilcox said. “This may be a bump in the road for Gov. Jan Brewer’s campaign, but it’s not a bump in the road to justice. The Department of Justice has done their job. Our hope is that this is a wake-up call across America for immigration reform. This ruling is not a total victory, but we can only hope one day that we will achieve true immigration reform.”
Antonio Bustamante, an attorney who is a board member of the Hispanic Bar Association, Los Abogados, and a staunch opponent against SB 1070, told a crowded room full or reporters:
“We feel vindicated on several fronts,” Bustamante said. “We’re gratified with the language of the court and encouraged, but there’s much left to be done. We still haven’t gotten to the Fourth or Fifth Amendment violations of the law yet. This battle still has another year or two to go.”
Bolton’s decision quickly drew the ire from opponents of SB 1070 and members of law enforcement in areas of Arizona that have experienced the crimes that supporters say come with illegal immigration – drug and human smuggling as well as employing undocumented workers.
“Incredibly, even though there is not one person who can legitimately claim to be harmed by a law that has not even taken effect, the result of an injunction is de facto amnesty through non-enforcement of laws against illegal immigration,” said Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu. “The federal government refuses to secure the border and leaves it to states like Arizona to bear the costs of its inaction. Yet, when we try to do the job they won’t do, in a manner consistent with federal law, they stop us. You couldn’t make up something this ridiculous.
“This is our most serious public safety issue and a national security threat to America,” Babeu said. “President Obama seems to have won the initial legal battle on the basis of the supremacy clause, saying it is inherently his job to enforce immigration law. We in Arizona could not agree more that is it his job and we demand that he do his job and protect our state, rather that continuing to fight us in court.”
Daniel Ortega Jr., an attorney who is part of the lawsuit against SB 1070, went as far as to call state Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, a co-sponsor of SB 1070, “Koo-Koo” when answering a reporter’s questions.
“This is a good start, but we have a long way to go,” Ortega said. “We can breath a sigh of relief, but will continue to fight any law that subjects our people to rampant racial profiling and unfair treatment.”
Many of the Hispanic community leaders remained concerned over law enforcement harassing day laborers at sites throughout the Valley where they gather to obtain work. One of the parts of SB 1070 that still can be enforced includes arresting day laborers for impeding traffic.
Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, and Chris Newman, legal programs director for NDLON, took issue with that part of the law, saying day laborers will remain a target.
“We finally made a U-turn, but we have a long road ahead of us,” Newman said. “We will not stop until 1070 is stopped in its entirety. We will not allow this rogue enforcement in Arizona to continue. Let this be a message to other states considering this kind of legislation that clearly violates the First Amendment.”
Alvarado said, “SB 1070 is on life support. As it is still alive, we’ll still be resilient. The battle against day laborers began at 36th Street and Thomas Road in Phoenix, and we’ll continue to fight back.”
Bolton’s decision derailed Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s plans for an SB 1070 enforcement training class, which was canceled earlier on Wednesday. When news spread around a room full of Arpaio’s posse members who were waiting for the training, they expressed angst and shook their heads.
“It just makes me sad,” said Marge Paulding, a member of the sheriff’s posse. “And I had confidence in that woman judge to do the right thing. Ha. She’s a joke. Does that mean when we travel to other countries and overseas, that we don’t have to show our identification when asked?”
Posse member Bill Paustian’s sentiments echoed Paulding’s.
“Since the federal government can’t enforce immigration, they have to enforce local police departments from doing their job,” Paustian said. “There are 2,000 immigration officers in the U.S. and 900,000 police officers. The federal government should let the local police departments help them enforce the law.”
Another MCSO posse member, who did not want to be named, said of Bolton’s ruling: Mexico’s laws are a lot more stricter than ours when we go south of the border. They can ask us for our identification, and if we don’t produce it, we can wind up in jail or face-down in the desert. That’s why I don’t go south of the border.
“The federal government needs to step up and do what it’s supposed to do.”
State Sen. Jim Waring, R-Phoenix, who was a co-sponsor of SB 1070 with Pearce, also expressed dismay in Bolton’s ruling.
“I am deeply disappointed today with the decision of the court,” Waring said. “The will of the people in our representative government should not be thwarted by activists judges. The fact that this lawsuit was brought on by this Administration and the ACLU points to a clear political purpose for opposing this highly-regard legislation. The president, his administration and organizations like the ACLU should realize this is not a political issue, this is a public safety issue.
Waring is the only candidate for Congress who has said he will introduce legislation to strip the Justice Department of the funds it is using to sue the state of Arizona for passing SB 1070.