Federal judge blocks provisions of Arizona immigration law

A judge for the US District Court for the District of Arizona on July 28 issued a preliminary injunction against several provisions of the controversial Arizona immigration law, set to take effect the next day. The injunction comes at the request of the US Department of Justice (DoJ), which filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the law earlier this month. Judge Susan Bolton rejected the DoJ’s argument that the law should be enjoined in its entirety, finding that the individual provisions were severable.

Bolton issued the injunction against provisions of the law requiring the verification of the immigration status of people stopped in the enforcement of other laws, and authorizing the warrantless arrest of those police have probable cause to believe have committed an offense that could lead to deportation. The court also enjoined a provision of the law requiring non-citizens to carry their papers with them at all times, agreeing with the DoJ’s assertion that “the federal government has long rejected a system by which aliens’ papers are routinely demanded and checked.”

Bolton ruled that the the government was likely to prevail in its claim that these provisions are superseded by federal law, violating the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution, and would suffer irreparable harm if the provisions went into effect because they would impair its ability to enforce federal policy. The court declined to enjoin several other provisions of the law, finding that the DoJ was not likely to prevail in its claims against them. This included provisions making it a state crime to harbor undocumented immigrants and allowing for the impoundment of vehicles used in their transportation.

The DoJ filed its complaint earlier this month, arguing that the Constitution and federal law “do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country.” The DoJ also claims that the federal government has preeminent authority to regulate immigration matters and that the enforcement of the Arizona law is counterproductive to the national immigration policy, and will interfere with foreign relations with Mexico and other countries.

The law has been widely criticized as unconstitutional and allegedly legalizing racial profiling. Also in July, the American Bar Association (ABA) filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the DoJ lawsuit, following the submission of another amicus curiae brief in support of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In the brief filed in support of the US, the ABA also argues that the Arizona law would interfere with law enforcement officers’ public safety functions and infringe on both citizens’ and non-citizens’ constitutional rights by placing upon them the burden of proving their citizenship.

From Jurist, July 28. Used with permission.

See our last posts on the politics of immigration and the struggle in Arizona.

  1. Arpaio rides again
    Maricopa County’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio launched his 17th “crime suppression” sweep in the Phoenix area, openly boasting that he timed it for the day SB 1070 took effect to send a message that nothing is changing despite Judge Bolton’s ruling. “We’re looking for anybody who violates the law,” he said. “If we find any illegal aliens, they are going to be arrested.”

    The operation began about 4 PM after being delayed for several hours while his deputies responded to anti-1070 demonstrations outside the county jail in Phoenix. Several protesters were arrested, and a legal observer and a news photographer were among the detained. Then, teams of Arpaio’s deputies, followed by media vans, spread out across the city and county, looking for “illegal aliens.” Since launching the sweeps in 2008, his deputies have made nearly 1,000 arrests, nearly 70% of them “illegals,” according to Arpaio’s department. Most have been for minor offenses.

    Arpaio remains under investigation by the US Justice Department of for possible civil rights violations. “Arrest Arpaio, not the people!” was a favored chant at the protests in Phoenix. “Joe Arpaio has shown a disregard for basic constitutional protections,” said Chris Newman, legal director for the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, who traveled from Los Angeles to Phoenix for the protest.

    Last year, the Obama administration stripped Arpaio of some of his special authority to make federal immigration arrests through the 287(g) program. However, he retains some federally granted authority that allows his jail officers to speed up deportations.

    One of the remaining parts of SB 1070 not affected by the injunction allows Arizona to block “sanctuary city” policies limiting enforcement of federal immigration law. Phoenix itself is a “sanctuary city,” pitting the municipal police against Arpaio’s deputies. So are Mesa, Chandler and Tucson. “Striking down these sanctuary city policies has always been the No. 1 priority,” said State Sen. Russell Pearce, the law’s chief author. He boasted that Bolton’s failure to apply the injunction to that part of the law removes the “political handcuffs” from law enforcement in those locales.

    Protests were also held across the country as SB 1070 took effect. In Los Angeles, some 200 blocked traffic on Wilshire Boulevard for hours. At least 10 were arrested after the activists chained themselves together with plastic pipes and handcuffs. (LAT, WSJ, July 30; Fox News, July 29)

  2. Ninth Circuit denies Arizona bid to lift injunction
    The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit July 30 denied the state of Arizona’s request for an expedited appeal to lift the preliminary injunction issued a day earlier against several provisions of a controversial immigration law. The court set a briefing schedule with the opening brief due Aug. 26 and the answering brief due Sept. 23, and scheduled a hearing to occur the week of Nov. 1. No extensions will be granted “absent extraordinary and compelling circumstances.” (Jurist, July 31)

  3. Cartel bounty on Arpaio’s head?
    From AP, Aug. 2:

    Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Monday that his office is investigating a report of a $1 million bounty on his head.

    Sheriff’s spokeswoman Lisa Allen said the death threat was relayed by the FBI and a caller who told Fox affiliate KSAZ-TV in Phoenix that it was from a Mexican drug cartel.

    Allen said it wasn’t known whether the threat actually came from a drug cartel but that authorities believe the threat was made using a disposable cell phone in Mexico.

    Arpaio said it’s not unusual for him to receive death threats as sheriff and an outspoken advocate of immigration enforcement. He said the last bounty against him was for $5 million.

    “The economy must be bad down there in Mexico,” Arpaio said, referring to the $1 million offer for his life.

    He said the threats do not deter him from his work.

    “I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. It doesn’t matter to me,” Arpaio said.

    Now, why would a Mexican cartel want to kill Arpaio? As a populist PR move? And note that which cartel is not mentioned. Does this one smell right?

  4. Arpaio sticks it to feds —and his own county
    The Justice Department on Sept. 2 filed suit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio for refusing to release records and grant access to facilities in their investigation of whether his aggressive operations against illegal immigrants have violated their civil rights.

    At stake is $113 million in future funding from the federal government that goes toward county services from housing to childcare. While the sheriff’s office receives about $3.8 million in federal funds, which is less than 5% of its budget, for the county the impact could be catastrophic. “The health and welfare of our community shouldn’t be at risk because one rogue agency doesn’t want to provide records,” said Cari Gerchik, a spokesperson for Maricopa County.

    Arpaio has reacted with defiance. “This is the people of Arizona they are going against, using me as a puppet,” Arpaio said at a press conference in response to the suit. “They’re not going to put handcuffs on this sheriff. I’m not going to surrender!” (NAM, Sept. 4; ABC News, WSJ, Sept. 3)

  5. Joe Arpaio going down: report
    File under “instant karma.” From Talking Points Memo, Sept. 23:

    Officials: Sheriff Joe’s Office Charged Luxury Trips To County, Misused Up To $80 Million
    Joe Arpaio, the Arizona sheriff infamous due to his attention-grabbing immigration enforcement related stunts and the accusations his office discriminates against Latinos, allegedly misused millions in funds intended for jail operations, Maricopa County officials said Wednesday.

    Excerpts of the reports, obtained by TPMMuckraker, show officials from Arpaio’s office made trips to Orlando, D.C., Honduras, Tempe, Belize, Alaska and Puerto Rico on the county’s dime and racked up other questionable expenses, like $741 at Sardella’s Pizza and Wings. The county was also charged $350 for a hotel room upgrade for one official’s spouse. One employee went on multiple extradition trips without submitting receipts for the $62,750 he or she spent — including $1,341 on Disney World Yacht Club Resort food and entertainment.

    Others expenses charged to the county, according to the report, include $1,684 for a portable generator for parade lights on an army tank; $635 at Buca di Beppo when members of the Honduran National Police were in town; and $500 on a carriage ride.

    The Maricopa County Office of Management and Budget unveiled the first evidence of misuse of public funds by Arpaio’s office to the county Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, which the Arizona Republic reported were the result of hundreds of hours of staff research.

    In a press release, officials said that Arpaio’s office was evasive and that he has chosen to fight efforts at transparency in his use of public money. But, based on the limited amount of data provided by the sheriff’s office, Maricopa County officials said the office had misspent money since at least March by using jail funds on non-jail related operations.

    Jail operations are funded by an exclusive tax levy — passed in a voter referendum in 1998 — and are supposed to be distinct from the sheriff’s office’s funds. County officials charge that Arpaio’s office allegedly used the jail operations funds for sheriff’s office expenses — such as salaries for deputies who worked on public-corruption investigations into county supervisors and judges.

    A further review found that misspending dated back to at least 2006 at a rate of $16 million per year and that retroactively, Apraio’s office may have misspent up to $80 million.

    County officials additionally allege that the sheriff’s office deliberately misused procurement codes and made capital purchases during spending freezes; used outside bank accounts; had problems handling inmate cash; demonstrated extradition travel irregularities; improperly used county credit cards; and spent public funds unusually.

    A PowerPoint presentation issued yesterday also quoted Arpaio’s letter of support in favor of the 1998 jail tax that he’s now accused of misusing revenues from. “I pledge to you that the new jail will be the most efficient, cost-effective use of the sales tax revenue of any major jail built in the United States,” he wrote.

    General funds from the county may have to be used to pay as much as $64 million back to the jail operations budget.

    Related news from the Arizona Republic, Sept. 25:

    Sheriff Joe Arpaio closes anti-corruption squad
    An anti-corruption squad that led the failed investigations of several Maricopa County officials and was accused of being wielded as a political tool has been disbanded by Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

    The breakup of the unit is the latest fallout from allegations in a memo written by a deputy chief accusing Arpaio’s top officer of misconduct and mismanagement. The memo became public last week.

    The unit’s investigations ultimately spawned a federal abuse-of-power probe that is still under way, and the repercussions of its probes have damaged careers in the Sheriff’s and County Attorney’s offices.

    Arpaio said this week that he has shut down the unit, overseen by Chief Deputy David Hendershott, who is under investigation, but would discuss reforming it with the new county attorney after November’s election.

    Even if the unit is reinstated, it is unlikely to resemble the team of detectives that launched nearly a dozen high-profile criminal investigations of local, county and state officials in recent years.

    Adios, amigo.