Federal Court Blocks Key Provision Of Arizona’s Anti-Immigration Law Because It’s ‘Unintelligible’


On Tuesday, a federal court upheld a district court’s preliminary injunction on a key provision of Arizona’s controversial, anti-immigration SB 1070 law. The provision makes it illegal to transport or harbor undocumented immigrants. In other words, anyone driving an undocumented immigrant around or allowing undocumented guests to stay in their home would risk arrest.

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled that the statute was too “vague” and “unintelligible” and that in any case, federal immigration law preempts the provision. The lower court blocked the provision in September 2012, but the state appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

The opinion said, “As currently drafted, the statute is incomprehensible to a person of ordinary intelligence and is therefore void for vagueness.”

A spokesperson for Gov. Jan Brewer (R) told The Republic, “The judges suggest that state and local law enforcement should not have the ability to combat criminal elements of illegal immigration, such as smuggling and harboring. That defies common sense — and it’s not what Arizonans expect.”

Arizona Attorney General Tim Horne has vowed to appeal the case, either to the full Ninth Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court. The Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Eleventh Circuits have already struck down similar provisions in other states.

The opinion comes as a victory for immigrant advocates who have long argued that SB 1070 is an excessively harsh law that penalizes individuals solely for their immigration status. Advocates criticized this particular provision because it would have criminalized many daily interactions with undocumented immigrants. The law also would have torn countless families apart by making it illegal for U.S. citizens or legal residents to live in the same house as their undocumented family members.

The issue itself stemmed from the case of Pastor Luz Santiago who provided “transportation and shelter to members of her congregation” which is comprised of 80 percent undocumented immigrants. Under the provision, Santiago would have been prosecuted for driving her congregants to school, court, and doctor’s appointments.

These past few weeks have not been good to anti-immigration officials in Arizona. Recently, a federal judge prohibited the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office from criminally charging undocumented immigrants as conspirators when they pay so-called “coyotes” to come into the country.