The federal judge, however, ruled on a permanent injunction against three other components of the controversial immigration law, though opponents consider “show me your papers” to be the most egregious in contributing to racial profiling in Arizona.
An injunction on the most controversial provision of Arizona’s punitive immigration law was lifted September 18, allowing police officers to check the immigration status of individuals during traffic stops or other encounters with law enforcement.
The ruling by US District Court Judge Susan Bolton comes nearly two and a half years after Senate Bill 1070 was first introduced into the Arizona legislature, inspiring protests across the country and a slew of lawsuits from advocacy groups, as well as the federal government.
The “show me your papers” provision, as section 2b of the measure has been called, is seen as one of the most egregious parts of the law that effectively invites racial profiling by local law enforcement.
“This ruling means that police are now required to investigate the immigration status of anyone they suspect to be undocumented,” said Melissa Keaney, a staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “We have been saying all along that we believe this is going to result in the targeting of people of color in Arizona, not just immigrants but others who may appear to be undocumented.”
Jan Brewer, the governor of Arizona, a forceful advocate of both the law and an increased Border Patrol presence on her state’s border, celebrated the ruling. “Today is the day we have awaited for more than two years: The injunction against the heart of SB 1070 has been lifted,” she said in a statement.
Bolton also ruled Tuesday on a permanent injunction against three other components of SB 1070: the section that would have required immigrants to carry proof of residency, barred undocumented immigrants from seeking employment and mandated that police must determine whether a person had committed a crime that could lead to deportation.
The “show your papers” provision puts law enforcement agencies at the forefront of immigration enforcement in the state. Sergeant Tommy Thompson, a Phoenix police spokesman interviewed by Arizona Central said that officers will be allowed to detain someone stopped in a traffic stop for a reasonable amount of time. Though the length of the detention is not defined, “we can’t hold on to you for an inordinate amount of time,” said Thompson.
He also noted that he was required to contact ICE “where you have broken a state, a county or local law, and after that if I develop reasonable suspicion that you’re here illegally.” In addition, a full-time staff of federal agents already reviews the immigration status of all inmates that pass into the jail.
The exceptions to the rule, Thomas told Arizona Central, are “if it would interfere with an investigation, if you’re the victim of a crime, if you’re a witness of a crime.”
Journey Through the Courts
This is only the latest decision in SB1070’s journey through the courts, and unlikely to be the last. After the bill was signed by Gov. Brewer in 2010, it was challenged by a lawsuit from the US Justice Department as well as a coalition of groups, including the ACLU, MALDEF and the National Immigration Law Center. The Justice Department’s law suit made its way through to the Supreme Court in Arizona, which ruled that the provision 2b could not be put into place. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled along the same lines.
But when the case made its way to the Supreme Court, it ruled that 2b didn’t automatically violate constitutional rights and told the state that it could “proceed with implementing this part of the law,” said Keaney. The coalition of civil rights and legal advocacy groups then filed a civil rights case, arguing that the injunction. The groups argued against 2b on the basis of the Equal Protection Clause, part of the 14th Amendment which states that no one shall be denied the equal protection of the law; and the 4th amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures.
A hearing was held on the motion to bring an injunction against 2b in August, and the reinstatement of section 2b of SB1070 is the result of that hearing. The provision went into effect Tuesday as soon as the ruling was announced.
The National Immigration Law Center and other groups have filed a joint emergency injunction, said Keaney, argued that “there will be such harm in allowing it to go into effect at all” that it must be stopped immediately. They are also hoping to push through a larger review of the provision.
One of Keaney’s key concerns is that even without the “show me your papers” provision of SB 1070, life for immigrants and people of color in Arizona is already overshadowed by racial profiling and fear of police.
She told the story of one young man, brought to the United States as a child, who was stopped by a police car and followed to his home because the officer was concerned he would lose his job if he did not apprehend him. Keaney said that the individual did not tell the police officer his immigration status.
“We believe situations like that are going to become the norm as these things are happening even without the law being in effect,” said Keaney. “That is why we have done everything that we could to try to prevent what happened yesterday [lifting of injunction] and will continue to do what we can to bring the injunction back.”