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U.S. challenges Arizona immigration law in court

 Reuters 26 July 2019

U.S. President Barack Obama's faces a showdown over whether Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigrants encroaches on federal authority over immigration policy and enforcement. (597 Words) - By Tim Gaynor



 Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, author of Arizona's illegal immigration law Senate Bill 1070, poses for a photo in Mesa, Arizona. Photo: Reuters/Joshua Lott

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U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton will hear arguments in a federal lawsuit seeking to block Arizona's tough new immigration law.

The Republican-controlled Arizona Legislature passed the law in April to try to stem the flow of illegal immigrants over the state's border with Mexico and cut down on drug trafficking and crime -- setting it on a collision course with the federal government.

The law requires state and local police, during lawful contact, to investigate the immigration status of anyone they reasonably suspect of being an illegal immigrant.

The Justice Department filed suit this month, arguing the measure would undermine U.S. foreign policy and violate the U.S. Constitution because immigration law is the responsibility of the federal government.

Bolton could issue a preliminary injunction if she finds the Obama administration would ultimately succeed in its quest to have the law struck down.

"A ruling in either direction will probably be a very strong signal about how this judge views the validity of the Arizona law and the strength of the administration's arguments," said

Carissa Hessick, an associate law professor at Arizona State University.

At stake is "whether the administration has the full authority over immigration policy and immigration enforcement. It's potentially a very big day," she added.

Immigration, particularly what to do with some 11 million illegal immigrants working in mostly low-wage jobs across the United States, is a divisive issue in this election year.


Opinion polls consistently show the Arizona law is supported by a solid majority of U.S. voters, posing risks for Obama in opposing the measure, which he warns could lead to a 'patchwork' of conflicting state laws across the country.

Obama, whose Democratic Party faces an uphill battle to maintain its congressional

majorities in November elections, backs a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws. It would tighten workplace and border security, and allow unauthorized migrants in good standing to learn English, pay a fine and get on the track to citizenship.

Bolton heard arguments earlier on Thursday in a separate suit against the law filed by a coalition of civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defence and Educational Fund.

"This law is a clear invitation for racial profiling, and we're confident that the court will understand the importance of preventing it from ever taking effect," said Omar Jadwat, a lawyer for the ACLU.

With protesters banging drums and waving flags outside the courthouse, an attorney for Arizona countered that it did not pre-empt federal authority and dismissed charges it would lead to racial profiling.

"All this hypothetical, we are going to arrest anyone who looks Hispanic. Look around, that's impossible," said the lawyer, John Bouma.

A total of seven lawsuits have been filed opposing the law.

In a brief filed earlier in the week, lawyers for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer argued the state had not pre-empted federal authority, but sought to "assist with the enforcement of existing federal immigration laws in a constitutional manner."

In a statement, Brewer said she was confident the court would "reject President Obama's attempt to prevent our state from protecting its citizens as a result of his failure to enforce federal immigration laws."

Arizona argued the government had failed in its duty to secure the porous Mexico border. It said half of all illegal immigrants in the United States entered through the state and that illegal migrants who had committed crimes accounted for 17 percent of the state's prison population.


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