Back in July, federal district court judge Susan Bolton imposed a preliminary injunction on parts of the controversial immigration law passed by Arizona last year, SB-1070. She enjoined provisions relating to warrantless arrests of suspected undocumented immigrants and document requirements and also struck down the requirement that police check the immigration status of anyone they stop, detain, or arrest if they reasonably suspect the person is in the country illegally. Bolton argued that “the United States is likely to succeed on the merits in showing that…[the enjoined provisions] are preempted by federal law” and the “United States is likely to suffer irreparable harm” in the absence of an injunction.
A federal appeals court agreed. Today, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Bolton’s preliminary injunction on several major provisions of SB-1070. In their stinging legal critiques, 9th Circuit Judges Richard Paez and John Noonan wrote in their concurring opinions that each of the provisions blocked by Bolton are outright “unconstitutional” and that SB-1070 is preempted by federal law and foreign policy:
By imposing mandatory obligations on state and local officers, Arizona interferes with the federal government’s authority to implement its priorities and strategies in law enforcement, turning Arizona officers into state-directed DHS agents. […] [T]he record unmistakably demonstrates that S.B. 1070 has had a deleterious effect on the United States’ foreign relations, which weighs in favor of preemption. […]
Finally, the threat of 50 states layering their own immigration enforcement rules on top of the INA [Immigration and Nationality Act] also weighs in favor of preemption.
The 9th Circuit Court probably won’t have the final say on the issue. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has pledged to take her case all the way to the Supreme Court. SB-1070’s sponsor, state Senate President Russell Pearce (R), has entered the legal challenge now following a recent decision by the U.S. District Court to allow the Arizona State Legislature to intervene as a defendant in the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Brewer and her state. Today also happens to be the deadline for U.S. Justice Department lawyers to file an answer to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s countersuit that accuses the federal government of failing “to live up to its Constitutional duty to protect Arizona against invasion and domestic violence,” amongst other things.
In his opinion, Noonan recognized that SB-1070 has “become a symbol.” Noonan noted that, “For those sympathetic to immigrants to the United States, it is a challenge and a chilling foretaste of what other states might attempt.” The 9th Circuit’s decision comes as several states around the country are in the final stages of approving similar “copycat” pieces of legislation.