PHOENIX — A federal judge on Wednesday blocked the most controversial parts of Arizona’s immigration law from taking effect, delivering a last-minute victory to opponents of the crackdown.
The overall law will still take effect Thursday, but without the provisions that angered opponents – including sections that required officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws.
The judge also put on hold parts of the law that required immigrants to carry their papers at all times, and made it illegal for undocumented workers to solicit employment in public places. In addition, the judge blocked officers from making warrantless arrests of suspected illegal immigrants.
“Requiring Arizona law enforcement officials and agencies to determine the immigration status of every person who is arrested burdens lawfully-present aliens because their liberty will be restricted while their status is checked,” U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled.
She ruled that the controversial sections should be put on hold until the courts resolve the issues. Other provisions of the law, many of them procedural and slight revisions to existing Arizona immigration statute, will go into effect at 12:01 a.m.
The ruling came just as police were making last-minute preparations to begin enforcement of the law and protesters were planning large demonstrations to speak out against the measure. At least one group planned to block access to federal offices, daring officers to ask them about their immigration status.
The volume of the protests will likely be turned down a few notches because of the ruling by Bolton, a Clinton appointee who suddenly became a crucial figure in the immigration debate when she was assigned the seven lawsuits filed against the Arizona law.
Lawyers for the state contend the law was a constitutionally sound attempt by Arizona – the busiest illegal gateway into the country – to assist federal immigration agents and lessen border woes such as the heavy costs for educating, jailing and providing health care for illegal immigrants.
Opponents argued the law will lead to racial profiling, conflict with federal immigration law and distract local police from fighting more serious crimes. The U.S. Justice Department, civil rights groups and a Phoenix police officer had asked the judge for an injunction to prevent the law from being enforced.