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  • 29Jul

    Controversial Immigration Law Faces Challenges

    From NYT

    A federal judge in Arizona on Wednesday broadly vindicated the Obama administration’s high-stakes move to challenge that state’s tough immigration law and to assert the primary authority of the federal government over state lawmakers in immigration matters.

    The ruling by Judge Susan R. Bolton, in a lawsuit against Arizona brought on July 6 by the Justice Department, blocked central provisions of the law from taking effect while she finishes hearing the case.

    But in taking the forceful step of holding up a statute even before it was put into practice, Judge Bolton previewed her opinions on the case, indicating that the federal government was likely to win in the end on the main points.

    The decision by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to throw the federal government’s weight against Arizona, on an issue that has aroused passions among state residents, has irritated many state governors, and nine states filed papers supporting Arizona in the court case.

    But Judge Bolton found that the law was on the side of the Justice Department in its argument that many provisions of the Arizona statute would interfere with federal law and policy.

    Gov. Jan Brewer said the state would appeal the decision.

    Although Judge Bolton’s ruling is not final, it seems likely to halt, at least temporarily, an expanding movement by states to combat illegal immigration by making it a state crime to be an immigrant without legal documents and by imposing new requirements on state and local police officers to enforce immigration law.

    “This is a warning to any other jurisdiction” considering a similar law, said Thomas A. Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund , which brought a separate suit against the law that is also before Judge Bolton.

    The Arizona law stood out from hundreds of statutes adopted by states in recent years to discourage illegal immigrants. The statute makes it a state crime for immigrants to fail to carry documents proving their legal status, and it requires state police officers to determine the immigration status of anyone they detain for another reason, if there is a “reasonable suspicion” the person is an illegal immigrant.

    The mere fact of being present without legal immigration status is a civil violation under federal law, but not a crime.

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