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Arizona Immigration Law Goes to Court


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True to her reputation, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton (Clinton appointee) made attorneys sweat on both sides of the aisle in this morning’s hearing on Senate Bill 1070, the state’s new immigration law.

The topic was a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and several other civil-rights groups and individuals. Three requests from defendants seek to have the suit thrown out; one from the plaintiffs asks the judge for a preliminary injunction, blocking the law from taking effect.

Omar Jadwat, an attorney representing the ACLU, had just begun to say why he believed SB 1070 was unconstitutional and should be enjoined, when Bolton cut him off.

“I’m sorry to interrupt you after your second sentence,” she said.

But she wanted to make it clear that SB 1070 was not a statute in itself, but rather an “enactment” by the Legislature that merged new laws with old laws and amended laws, all dealing with immigration.

“Shouldn’t we be talking about it section by section and provision by provision?” she asked. “Because I’m not going to enjoin SB 1070.”

Then she steered the attorneys toward the new law’s sticking points: the fuzzy language of when police may question suspects about immigration status, the ability to hold people indefinitely as their immigration status is verified, and whether or not the new laws about hiring or transporting illegal immigrants or carrying registration cards pre-empt federal law.

She asked Jadwat why the state could not try to impose a standard enforcement of federal immigration and why citizens should not be allowed to sue if they feel the laws are not being enforced.

“Who am I to stop the state of Arizona?” she asked, if the state wanted to outlaw “sanctuary cities.”

But she also held the state’s lawyer, John Bouma, to the fire when he repeatedly was unable to answer questions about how the state law intermeshes with federal immigration law.

Twice she told Bouma that she was “mystified” by the law’s wording and focused on a provision that allows law-enforcement officers to arrest people suspected of committing offenses that could have them removed from the country.

“How can a police officer make a determination that a person has committed a removable offense when that decision can only be made by a federal judge?” she asked.

And during a discussion of the strain that the law would put on federal immigration authorities, she evoked a wave of laughter after Bouma said that the law did not intend to “melt down ICE,” the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

She paused a beat and asked, “Did you really just say ‘melt down ICE’?”

Bolton did not rule from the bench after this morning’s hearing.

In the afternoon hearing, Bolton was just as tough on the Department of Justice attorney, Edwin Kneedler, as he presented arguments as to whether the state law pre-empts federal law.

And when Bouma was about to begin his final argument, she said, “If you don’t have anything new to say, I remember what you said this morning and last week.”

At the end of the hearings, she took both matters under advisement with no suggestion as to when she would rule.

Then before she adjourned the session, she cordially greeted Brewer, who sat directly behind Bouma and the other state attorneys.

The courtroom has been packed throughout the day, and security was tight.

By mid-morning, an estimated 200 people were gathered outside the federal court building, including about 50 supporters of SB 1070, which was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer on April 23.

The crowd was monitored by about two dozen police officers. Phoenix police stopped two motorists for honking outside the downtown Phoenix courthouse, but the drivers were not cited. Police said that it is unlawful to honk your horn if it’s not an emergency situation.

Across the street from the court building, a protester of the law sported a giant mask lampooning Sheriff Joe Arpaio and an oversized pair of binoculars.

One of the SB 1070 supporters, Martha Payan of Scottsdale, said, “We may be outnumbered but this is our country and we’re going to be out here to fight.”

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The judge has already made it fairly obvious she's going to rule against Arizona. No surprise from a Clinton appointee.

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From AP:


No Ruling After Hearings On Ariz. Immigration Law



text size A A A July 22, 2010

Two federal court hearings in Phoenix have ended without a ruling on whether the state's new immigration law should take effect amid a flurry of legal challenges against the crackdown.


The second of two hearings Thursday concluded without U.S. Judge Susan Bolton issuing a ruling.


The afternoon hearing focused on whether state law is trumped by the federal government's constitutional authority to set immigration policy.


During the morning hearing, Bolton said she's required to consider blocking only parts of the law, not the entire statute as some plaintiffs had requested.


The law requires officers, while enforcing other laws, to check a person's immigration status if there's a reasonable suspicion that the person is here illegally.

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The judge has already made it fairly obvious she's going to rule against Arizona. No surprise from a Clinton appointee.


I don't think it is all that obvious. While she may have a problem with the State's attorney, I think that the only thing she has made obvious is that she doesn't intend to be predictable. If she were to take the obvious political stance, she would have placed an injuction of the implementation of the law summarily...instead, she chose to consider the law and its implications before rendering any decisions. She has a reputation, both on the Federal bench and Arizona Superior Court, as being tough and fair.


Precedent is on Arizona's side and Bolton does not strike me as the type of jurist who likes to be overturned on appeal.

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