Federal Appeals Court: Anti-Immigrant Arizona Law Violates First Amendment

Last year, the Supreme Court struck down much of Arizona’s harsh immigration law SB 1070, and stripped its “show me your papers” provision of many of its teeth. Earlier this week, another provision of this anti-immigrant law bit the dust. A bipartisan panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked SB 1070’s restrictions on drivers seeking to hire day laborers:

Two provisions in Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 make it unlawful for a motor vehicle occupant to hire or attempt to hire a person for work at another location from a stopped car that impedes traffic, or for a person to be hired in such a manner. These provisions raise First Amendment concerns because they restrict and penalize the commercial speech of day laborers and those who would hire them. Arizona defends the provisions as traffic safety measures, designed to promote the safe and orderly flow of traffic. We acknowledge that Arizona has a real and substantial interest in traffic safety. Arizona, however, has failed to justify a need to serve that interest through targeting and penalizing day labor solicitation that blocks traffic, rather than directly targeting those who create traffic hazards without reference to their speech, as currently proscribed under the State’s preexisting traffic laws. Laws like this one that restrict more protected speech than is necessary violate the First Amendment.

As the court notes, the day laborer provisions had at least as much to do with discouraging immigration as it did with any concerns over traffic. The provisions’ lead sponsor claimed the provision would “discourage the ‘shadow economy’ of day labor and address illegal immigration because ‘[a] large number of these people are illegal immigrants and this is the way they get work, and this work is one of the anchors that keeps them in the country.’”