Razing Arizona

How do you like them apples, Arizona? Even as Texas steps up border militarization with National Guard troops, many San Antonians cheered for the preliminary injunction against controversial Arizona SB 1070. Had the law gone into effect on its scheduled July 29 date, it would have effectively made being an illegal immigrant a state crime in Arizona. But U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton, after hearing oral arguments in suits brought against the Grand Canyon State by the U.S. Department of Justice and human-rights groups ACLU and MALDEF, barred several of the most ire-inducing elements from being implemented. Those included: requiring police to check the legal status of anyone under “reasonable suspicion” of being an illegal immigrant; requiring police to check immigration status before releasing arrested individuals; allowing warrantless arrests of foreign nationals if the alleged crime is punishable by deportation; and requiring all foreign nationals to carry papers proving their legal status in the U.S.

San Antonio resident Nina Perales was of counsel on MALDEF’s plea for the preliminary injunction. She said they were pleased with Judge Bolton’s order. “An independent immigration process is a very serious matter and very unconstitutional,” she said Monday. “What Arizona was trying to do was set up its own immigration system with its own set of crimes and its own enforcement that were distinct from federal policy.” The plaintiffs argued that allowing a state to form immigration policy separate from federal policy encroached on the federal government’s Constitutional responsibility and set a dangerous precedent. “The threat is a patchwork of immigration schemes that cause interference with foreign policy and our relationship with other countries, and endanger U.S. citizens abroad,” Perales said.

Elements of the law still in effect criminalize the knowing transportation or harboring of illegal immigrants and hiring day laborers off the streets, but Perales noted the judge could still overturn that portion of the bill when she rules on it later this year, possibly in November. The Ninth Circuit’s decision late Friday not to expedite an appeal of the injunction strengthens the belief of the law’s opponents that it will ultimately be overturned. Even though SB 1070, and immigration issues in general, will rightfully continue to be hot-button issues during fall’s midterm elections, “I think that this has taken the wind out of the sails of the most extreme anti-immigrant politicians,” Perales said. “They can’t point to this law as an example as something states should do.”

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