US judge blocks parts of controversial new immigration law in Arizona

by Ray Clancy on July 29, 2010

Sections of Arizona’s controversial new immigration law which comes into effect today (Thursday July 29) have been blocked by a judge who has imposed a temporary injunction on the most sensitive parts of the new rules.

US District Judge Susan Bolton ruled that certain sections should be put on hold until the courts resolve the issues after the law was challenged by the Obama administration and many other groups. Lawyers for the government had argued that such issues should be a federal matter and not decided on a state level.

The judge agreed. ‘There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens under the new law. By enforcing this statute, Arizona would impose a distinct, unusual and extraordinary burden on legal resident aliens that only the federal government has the authority to impose,’ Bolton said.

The most sensitive parts of the law will not be able to be enforced at present including police officers being required to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws or if they suspect they are illegal, the part that makes it a crime for a foreigner to be in the state without registration papers and the requirement that immigrants should carry their papers at all times.

Lawyers for the state contend the law was a constitutionally sound attempt by Arizona, the busiest illegal gateway into the country, to assist federal immigration agents and lessen border woes such as the heavy costs for educating, jailing and providing health care for illegal immigrants.

Opponents said though that the law would lead to racial profiling, conflict with federal immigration law and distract local police from fighting more serious crimes.

It throws into focus just what a mess immigration law is in the US and put further pressure on Obama to resolve issues on a nationwide basis. Federal lawyers said the law is disrupting US relations with Mexico and other countries and would burden the agency that responds to immigration status inquiries.

Several other states had also wanted to introduce similar new rules. Arizona must now wait until the courts have considered the lawsuit against the state by the federal government that seeks permanently to block the new law on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

Mark Krikorian, director of the Centre for Immigration Studies, a think tank that supports tighter immigration controls, said a hardening of positions was likely in the wake of the ruling. ‘This will add fuel to the frustrations of states over the lack of federal government action in enforcing the immigration laws,’ he added.

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