(Adds detail from decision, reaction, background, byline)
By Alex Dobuzinskis
March 4 A U.S. appeals court ruled on Monday on
the side of day laborers seeking work in Arizona, upholding an
injunction that bars the state from enforcing part of its
immigration law that prohibits motorists from stopping traffic
to pick up workers.
In the unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel of the San
Francisco-based U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found the
state law, by criminalizing certain interactions between drivers
and day laborers, went too far in restricting commercial free
The court's decision is another blow to a tough 2010 Arizona
law that sought to clamp down on illegal immigrants. The U.S.
Supreme Court last year struck down key provisions of that law
in a case brought by the Obama administration on grounds that
the law clashed with the federal government's power to enforce
U.S. laws on immigration.
The case before the appeals court stemmed from a civil
rights lawsuit filed by immigrant and union groups, with help
from attorneys from the Mexican American Legal Defense and
Educational Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union.
The sections of the law in question made it a crime for a
motorist to solicit or hire a day laborer if the car blocks
traffic, and also prohibited any day laborer from entering a car
that is obstructing traffic.
While attorneys for Arizona argued the state's intention was
to promote traffic safety, Ninth Circuit Judge Raymond Fisher
wrote in his opinion that the state could take other measures to
achieve the same end.
The provisions of the immigration law dealing with day
laborers and motorists appear to be "motivated by a desire to
eliminate the livelihoods of undocumented immigrants," Fisher
"Laws that limit commercial speech must not be more
extensive than necessary to serve a substantial government
interest," he added.
GOVERNOR WEIGHING OPTIONS
The appeals court ruling upheld a February 2012 decision by
a district judge in Arizona who granted a preliminary injunction
against the provision.
Arizona's Republican Governor Jan Brewer touted the state's
2010 law cracking down on illegal immigration as a necessary
response to what she described as the federal government's
failure to control the border with Mexico. The border state of
Arizona has seen a large influx of illegal immigrants.
Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said the governor is
conferring with her legal team to decide whether to appeal. "The
governor thinks this is an important tool to give law
enforcement," Benson said.
Omar Jadwat, supervising attorney with the ACLU Immigrants'
Rights Project, called the ruling "another nail in the coffin"
Arizona's tough immigration law.
The June 2012 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court struck down
much that law as unconstitutional, including provisions that
required immigrants to carry their papers at all times and
banned illegal immigrants from soliciting work in public places.
A section of the law that has so far survived court
challenges requires police in the state to check the immigration
status of people they stop and suspect are in the country
illegally, even if officers have stopped a person for minor
offenses such as jay-walking.
In 2011, the Ninth Circuit struck down an ordinance by the
California city of Redondo Beach that barred day laborers from
gathering curbside to seek work.
"It is fundamentally wrong to criminalize work, to
criminalize people who are looking for work to feed their loved
ones," said Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer
His group was a co-counsel on the civil rights case
challenging the Arizona law on day laborers. A 2004 survey by
the group and university researchers found the nation had about
120,000 day laborers.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and