The two most contentious aspects of the controversial Arizona law SB 1070, sections that called for Az. police officers to check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws and that required immigrants to carry their residency documents at all times, have been blocked by a federal court judge in Phoenix. United States District Court Judge Susan Bolton said some other aspects of the law could go into effect as scheduled on Thursday, but these two key components of the Az. law which drew the most criticism nationally, provoking outrage and boycotts across the country, would be stayed while she continued to hear the larger issues in the challenges to the law.
"Preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely preempted by federal law to be enforced," she said.
In her ruling, Bolton wrote: "There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens. 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."
Los Angeles' Cardinal Roger Mahony wrote a brief reaction on his blog: "I am grateful that U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton ruled today that the most egregious sections of the Arizona Senate Bill 1070 were not allowable under Federal law and ordered those halted.
"This entire Arizona attempt to deal with various immigration issues outside Federal law reveals once again the level of frustration across the country that the U.S. Congress will not deal with the pressing issue of needed immigration reform. Without needed Congressional action, local communities and states will continue to propose stop-gap measures which do not address all aspects of needed immigration reform."
"Pleased, we are," was John Young’s reaction to Bolton's decision. Young is the exective director of the U.S. Bishops Conference's Office on Migration and Refugee Affairs. "This is a good and rightful decision," he said.
"Our bishops made it very clear some weeks ago that we were not at all satisfied with this law . . . We would have been happy if the whole thing had been vitiated, but it was not," said Young, who was content to see that the most controversial aspects of the law had been thrown out. He called the decision a good outcome which suggests, whatever legal appeals may lie ahead, that the most potentially discriminatory components of SB 1070 will not survive further court scrutiny. Young said he would not be surprised to see the matter eventually end up before the U.S. Supreme Court before it is ultimately resolved.
Speaking as an African American who is old enough to remember America’s segregation era, Young compared the Arizona law, copycat state initiatives it inspired and the hundreds of municipal ordinances and laws on immigration to the hodge podge of state and local Jim Crow laws that once enforced discrimination against African Americans. During segregation, "We had laws at every level," he said, laws that were respected by other states until the Jim Crow era was upended by a U.S. Supreme Court decision. Would he like to see a contemporary court similarly make straight the hundreds of localized laws and rulings on undocumented immigrants today? "That would be wonderful," Young said.
For more: USCCB's Justice for Immigrants campaign