Federal court delivers another blow to Arizona immigration law

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has backed the Obama Administration in its case against SB 1070, the controversial immigration legislation passed by Arizona lawmakers last year. A three-judge panel ruled Monday that Arizona District Judge Susan Bolton “did not abuse her discretion,” as the Washington Post put it, when she blocked key provisions of the bill.

Last July Bolton enjoined sections of the law that would have required non-citizens to carry resident documentation at all times and that would have pressed local police to participate in checking immigration and citizenship status in the state.

Critics decried the bill as encouraging racial profiling. They said it granted authorities constitutionally slippery powers that could easily be abused.

SB 1070 would have pushed officers to lean heavily on suppositions, expanding the kind of gray areas in police work the law normally tries to narrow. Officers would have been asked to target people they merely suspected of being illegal immigrants, for example, and would have been authorized to make warrantless arrests of people they merely suspected of committing offenses that could lead to deportation.

The Obama Justice Department argued that federal law rules in matters of immigration and that Arizona’s law would hinder the federal government’s ability to carry out national immigration policy. Judge Bolton mostly agreed, as has the Ninth Circuit Court.

The Arizona law divided lawmakers in DC and in capitol buildings around the country.

Influential Colorado state Republican lawmakers embraced SB 1070 and introduced legislation this year mimicking its provisions. Democratic opponents, however, shot down the suite of bills as a partisan and unconsidered approach to immigration policy reform.

Democratic Colorado Congressman Jared Polis has been an outspoken opponent of SB 1070 from the time it was introduced. He described it as one with a pattern of politically charged overreaching moves that underline the need for comprehensive reform at the national level.

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