18 July 2012

Fresh challenge to Arizona's US immigration law filed

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After the Supreme Court upheld the most controversial part of Arizona's US immigration law, SB 1070, the first legal challenge aimed at stopping its enforcement has been filed.

US immigration

The US Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, was intended to be the final voice on the contentious issue but subsequent legal challenges have already been filed.

The Supreme Court passed down its ruling last month; the highest court in America threw out three of the four provisions of the hard-line US immigration law aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration but upheld the strictest, the so-called 'show me your papers' provision.

Show me your papers

The bill was signed into law by Arizona's governor, Republican Jan Brewer, in 2010 but quickly became the subject of a legal challenge by President Obama's administration who claimed the Constitution made it the sole responsibility of the federal government to impose immigration laws.

However, the Arizona government contended that given Arizona's border with Mexico, traditionally the main source of illegal immigrants to the US, stretches to almost 400 miles, they are forced to shoulder a disproportionate amount of the burden and therefore have the right to enforce immigration laws of their own.

The 'show me your papers' provision included in SB 1070 allows law enforcement officers to ascertain an individual's immigration status during any legal arrest or routine stop.

Opponents of the law claim that the provision encourages racial profiling which, in a state with several million people of Hispanic origin, will leave a huge amount of people open to unfair discrimination solely based on their appearance.

The law has even been ridiculed in the House of Representatives by Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez, an outspoken advocate for civil rights. Social Network writer Aaron Sorkin have also addressed the issue on American network HBO's latest offering Newsroom.

Influence

Since its passing in 2010, SB 1070 has inspired similar laws to either be passed or proposed in several other states including Alabama, South Carolina, Utah, Indiana and Georgia; several of these are subject to legal challenges of their own.

California's state legislature however, went so far as to pass a bill labelled the 'Anti-Arizona Bill' to prevent the detaining of any illegal immigrants for anything other than felony crimes.

With immigration such a divisive topic in the US, the two-year long ongoing argument has had widespread influence on the nation's politics and the issue itself looks set to have significant influence on November's presidential election, particularly when it comes to Hispanic voters.

President Obama promised to reform the immigration system prior to his 2008 election win but his administration's record levels of deportations combined with his failure to pass the DREAM Act was seen to damage his reputation among Hispanic voters. However, the incumbent issue an executive order last month which bypassed Congress to achieve similar things the DREAM Act would: preventing deportations of illegal immigrants brought to the US before they were 16 who have graduated high school or served in the military and have no criminal record.

Meanwhile, the president's opponent in November, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, trod a hard-line on immigration during a gruelling contest to secure the Republican nomination. While this was considered to have significantly damaged his appeal to Hispanic voters, he has since toned down his rhetoric.

Enforcement

The Supreme Court's decision was hailed as a victory by both sides; opponents celebrated three out of the four provisions' rejection while supporters welcomed the 'show me your papers' provision's approval.

While other states began to move forward enacting their own immigration proposals, Arizona began to make steps to enforce SB 1070 but has been subjected to further legal challenges.

Challenges

A coalition of civil rights groups, consisting of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Immigration Law Center and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, have requested a federal judge in Arizona to postpone the law's enactment as it is unconstitutional.

The group submitted a 65 page filing which claims SB 1070 'unlawfully discriminates against Latinos and individuals of Mexican origin.

"In a state that's more than 30% Latino, requiring police to act as immigration agent is an initiation to racial profiling on a massive scale," said Omar Jadwat of the ACLU.

Response

A spokesperson for Governor Jan Brewer, who signed the bill into law, said the legal challenges were 'unsurprising' and labelled the law's critics as 'fear-mongering' with 'outrageous allegations'.

"Governor Brewer is hopeful Arizona law enforcement will soon at long last be empowered to enforce SB 1070, showing it can be done fairly, lawfully and in harmony with civil rights and the Constitution," said a spokesperson for the governor.

However, without a legal response, the civil rights coalition say the provision could be blocked within a 'few days'.


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