PHOENIX Civil and immigrant rights activists on Thursday lodged a last-ditch appeal seeking to block a controversial Arizona "show-your-papers" immigration provision upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court from taking effect.
The measure, which is part of a broader law to combat illegal immigration in the state bordering Mexico, requires police to check the immigration status of people they stop and suspect are in the country illegally.
A federal judge last week cleared the way for the provision to take effect, ruling that the law's challengers had failed to show they were likely to prevail on the merits of the case after it was upheld by the nation's top court in June.
The appeal, filed by plaintiffs including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, questioned the U.S. District Court's interpretation of another federal appellate court's ruling. Allowing the measure to take effect would cause "irreparable harm," it said.
"We believe that the show-me-your-papers provision should remain suspended and are appealing the district court's contrary ruling to the Ninth Circuit," Omar Jadwat, senior attorney for the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, said in a statement.
Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer, a major White House foe in the battle over illegal immigration, signed the state crackdown on illegal immigrants into law in April 2010, complaining that the federal government had failed to secure the state's border with Mexico.
Matthew Benson, a spokesman for Brewer, said the appeal was "unfortunate but not unexpected, given that the groups aligned against SB 1070 are determined to do whatever possible to keep this duly-enacted and publicly supported law from taking effect."
The administration of President Barack Obama challenged Arizona's tough immigration law in court two years ago, saying the U.S. Constitution gives the federal government sole authority over immigration policy.
Opponents of the law also decried it as a mandate for the racial profiling of Hispanics, who make up nearly a third of Arizona's population of 6.5 million people.
In the mixed ruling last Wednesday that allowed the provision to proceed, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton also issued a preliminary injunction blocking a part of SB 1070, that made it a crime to transport, shield or harbor an illegal immigrant within Arizona's borders.
The Supreme Court ruling was referred back to Bolton, who originally enjoined sections of the law before it took effect in July 2010.
The provision that was upheld in last week's ruling could not be implemented until Bolton formally removes a block she placed on the law two years ago. That was not expected before September 15 at the earliest.
(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Tom Brown and Philip Barbara)