PHOENIX (Reuters) - A federal judge in Phoenix will begin considering on Tuesday whether Arizona’s tough “show me your papers” immigration law can go into effect, as the state grapples with hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants.
At the same time, District Court Judge Susan Bolton’s hearing marks a fresh bid by immigration rights advocates to halt provisions of the Arizona law, already partially upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, that requires police to check the immigration status of people they stop and suspect are in the country illegally.
Attorneys for the ACLU and several immigration groups have asked Judge Bolton to temporarily block the law until she can consider fresh arguments against it that differ from those presented to the high court.
The immigration rights advocates say the law would discriminate against Latinos and, by having police hold people while their immigration status is verified, would violate constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
“We have a good deal of evidence that the law would have a disparate impact on Latinos and Mexicans in particular, and that the law was enacted out of a discriminatory intent,” said Linton Joaquin, general counsel for the National Immigration Law Center, one of the groups leading the court challenge.
Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer, a major White House foe in the battle over illegal immigration, signed a broad crackdown into law in 2010, complaining that the federal government failed to secure the state’s border with Mexico. An estimated 360,000 illegal immigrants live in Arizona.
The Obama administration challenged that law in court, saying the Constitution gives the federal government sole authority over immigration policy.
In a split ruling issued in June, the Supreme Court struck down rules that would have required immigrants to carry immigration papers at all times, banned illegal immigrants from soliciting work in public places, and allowed police to arrest them without warrants if they were suspected of committing crimes warranting deportation.
Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said it is time the Arizona law “be allowed to take effect.”
“Governor Brewer has full faith and confidence that Arizona law enforcement can implement this law without violating individuals’ civil rights,” he said.
On Monday, a federal appeals court ruled that Alabama and Georgia could go ahead with their laws allowing police checks of criminal suspects in line with the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Arizona law, though it blocked other parts of those states’ laws.
In the Supreme Court’s majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy left open the possibility that, once the law takes effect, constitutional or other challenges can proceed against the Arizona requirement that police check the immigration status of people they stop and suspect are in the country illegally.
Meanwhile, Obama has implemented a new policy allowing illegal immigrants between the ages of 15 and 30 who entered the country as children to apply for permits that will allow them to stay in the country and work legally for two years.
Within hours of this policy taking effect last Wednesday, Brewer clashed with the White House by issuing an executive order denying state benefits, such as driver’s licenses, to illegal immigrants shielded from deportation under the new rules.
Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, a Republican, issued a similar challenge to the Obama policy by also vowing to withhold state benefits.
Additional reporting by Tim Gaynor; Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Philip Barbara