Tuesday, September 8, 2015
PHOENIX (CN) - Arizona may enforce the controversial "papers please" provision of its immigration law, a federal judge ruled.
The Friday ruling may be the end of a lawsuit from civil rights groups who claimed Arizona's S.B. 1070 of 2010 racially discriminates against Latinos by requiring police to check the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest if "reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien and is unlawfully present in the United States."
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton enjoined much of S.B. 1070 before it went into effect. The law also required immigrants to carry identification with them, made it illegal for undocumented workers to seek employment in public, and made human smuggling a state crime.
Calling the law "facially neutral," Bolton found that evidence that people of Latino descent make up most of the foreign-born and undocumented population in Arizona is not enough to prove S.B. 1070 will be more harmful to Latinos.
"Plaintiffs have admittedly not produced any evidence that state law enforcement officials will enforce S.B. 1070 differently for Latinos than a similarly situated person of another race or ethnicity," Bolton wrote.
While Bolton initially enjoined the provision, her Friday decision falls in line with the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 2012 left in place three sections of the law, including the "papers please" provision.
The Supreme Court found that it was unclear whether police officers asking for immigration papers would be unconstitutional because the law had not yet taken effect.
Bolton also dismissed claims that the provision was preempted by federal law.
"The Court will not depart from its prior analysis," the ruling says. "Plaintiffs are attempting to challenge a law that is not preempted on its face and could be interpreted to avoid the constitutional concerns mentioned ... including potential violations of the Fourth Amendment."
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote similarly in the 2012 decision, finding "the provision likely would survive preemption - at least absent some showing that it has other consequences that are adverse to federal law and its objectives."
Bolton did strike from the law provisions targeting day laborers and those who try to hire them. The law prohibited hiring "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."
The coalition argued that the provisions were not narrow enough in addressing traffic safety. Bolton wrote: "Even if existing traffic laws are insufficient to address the traffic problems in-street employment solicitation may cause, there is no evidence that Arizona could not effectively pursue its interest in traffic safety by enacting other speech-neutral traffic safety regulations."
The Ninth Circuit found likewise in 2013, writing the "(l)aws that limit commercial speech must not be more extensive than necessary to serve a substantial government interest."
Attorneys for the parties could not be immediately reached for comment.