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Border Roundup: Feds present case vs. SB 1070

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Border Roundup: Feds present case vs. SB 1070

  • The border wall in Naco, Arizona.
    ThreadedThoughts/FlickrThe border wall in Naco, Arizona.

A federal judge heard arguments from the U.S. Department of Justice against SB 1070. set the scene for Thursday's hearing:

PHOENIX – U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton adjourned court Thursday without giving any hint as to how she will rule on two separate motions seeking to prevent SB 1070 from becoming effective July 29. Bolton heard arguments from lawyers in two suits, as they sought preliminary injunctions to keep the anti-illegal immigration law, also known as the "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act," from taking effect next week.

Twice during the day spectators filled the grand, circular courtroom on the second floor of the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Courthouse, 401 W. Washington St., in Phoenix. They huddled shoulder to shoulder, suit to suit as they filled about seven rows of seats in the courtroom as well as the entire observation rotunda above. Not a cell phone nor pager could be heard all day as lawyers, journalists, political officials and court personnel hung on every word exchanged between Bolton, the plaintiffs and the defendants.

The beating of drums and chanting of anti-SB1070 slogans by protesters outside, and the frequent honking from passing cars could not be heard once the courtroom doors were closed. Natural light from the opaque glass atrium that rose five stories above the courtroom helped to keep attention focused on Bolton and her sharp questioning of the attorneys.

The major issue at stake in the hearings is whether SB 1070 will be declared unconstitutional. However, it looks like neither side will be able to claim a clear victory. The Arizona Republic reported that Judge Bolton plans to consider SB 1070 a "a large combination of new laws and amended existing laws.":

Whatever Bolton decides will determine whether SB 1070 takes full effect Thursday or portions of it are held in limbo until the courts have a chance to hear and rule on full cases.

During the hearings, Bolton made it clear that she considers SB 1070 not a statute in itself but rather a large combination of new laws and amended existing laws. She ignored the portions of the law that weren't up for debate, such as restrictions on day laborers, but said she was considering whether to block all or part of certain key sections of the law. She steered the attorneys toward the sticking points in those sections.

Capitol Media Services reported that Bolton's decision to consider the law as a combination of statutes was anticipated by the writers of SB 1070:

Lawmakers who crafted the statute apparently anticipated such a possibility: SB 1070 contains a "severability clause,'' saying a court declaration that one or more sections are illegal does not invalidate the entire measure.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Judge Bolton questioned when immigration checks would be applicable and whether local police could determine what was a "removable offense.":

The judge honed in on one sentence in the bill that requires everyone who is arrested to have their immigration status checked with the federal government before release. She questioned whether this would apply to arrests for minor, nonviolent misdemeanors that usually do not require jail time.

She also sharply questioned another part of the law that allows police to arrest anyone they believe has committed a crime that would make them removable from the country. Bolton said that such a complex determination is usually made by an immigration judge. Still, Bolton seemed sympathetic to other parts of the law, including one that makes harboring or transporting an illegal immigrant a state crime. She noted that Phoenix is a hub of human trafficking. "Isn't it a public safety and welfare issue?" she asked.

During the hearing, the Obama administration presented its argument that immigration law is the exclusive purview of the federal government, reported the New York Times:

The hearing marked the first opportunity for the Obama administration to explain why it feels Arizona should not be allowed to empower local police to demand some proof of citizenship from people they suspect are illegal immigrants. Edwin S. Kneedler, the lawyer for the federal government, argued that the federal government has the sole authority to enforce immigration laws under the Constitution and that Arizona was, in essence, establishing its own immigration policy — which in some cases would be stricter than the federal law and does not take into account either humanitarian concerns or the government’s foreign policy goals.

“The regulation of immigration is unquestionably, exclusively, a federal power,” he said.

Judge Bolton also questioned whether SB 1070 would be an enforcement policy:

As Judge Bolton questioned the federal government’s counsel, she expressed skepticism that the state was indeed carrying out its own immigration enforcement policy. She asked several times whether the statute would actually take the decision about what to do with an illegal immigrant away from federal authorities. “How does it become immigration enforcement policy? It’s an immigration status check,” she said. “Arizona cannot remove anybody, and they don’t purport they can.”

The Washington Post reported that Judge Bolton questioned the federal government's argument that federal law "preempts" state law in the case of SB 1070:

PHOENIX -- A federal judge pushed back Thursday against a contention by the Obama Justice Department that a tough new Arizona immigration law set to take effect next week would cause "irreparable harm" and intrude into federal immigration enforcement.

"Why can't Arizona be as inhospitable as they wish to people who have entered or remained in the United States?" U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton asked in a pointed exchange with Deputy Solicitor General Edwin S. Kneedler.

Her comment came during a rare federal court hearing in the Justice Department's lawsuit against Arizona and Gov. Jan Brewer (R). Bolton, a Democratic appointee, also questioned a core part of the Justice Department's argument that she should declare the law unconstitutional: that it is "preempted" by federal law because immigration enforcement is an exclusive federal prerogative. "How is there a preemption issue?" the judge asked. "I understand there may be other issues, but you're arguing preemption. Where is the preemption if everybody who is arrested for some crime has their immigration status checked?"

Outside the hearing, seven protesters were arrested, reported the Arizona Daily Star.

Other SB 1070 news

The Los Angeles Times reported that people are fleeing Phoenix in anticipation of July 29, the day that SB 1070 is scheduled to go into effect:

"The business is broken," said Katchi, who has operated his shop at this intersection for 14 years. "After the 29th of July, what happens? Maybe I have to close the store."

For the last 20 years, Arizona has been one of the fastest-growing states in the nation. It depends on an expanding population to power its economy, which relies heavily on the construction of new houses. At the corner of 43rd and Thomas, it's hard to determine how much of the neighborhood's woes stem from Arizona's immigration laws and how much from the state's economy, battered by a once red-hot housing marked that cooled. Katchi's revenue was already sagging before April 23, when Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law. Since then, sales have plummeted.


No one has measured the effect of SB 1070 on businesses, or the number of immigrants it has prompted to leave Arizona. But merchants say the repercussions are clear — not just in how it's prompted many families to leave the state, but scared others enough to curtail their regular activities. "The economy's already bad, but on top of it [SB 1070] is like a bullet in the head to us," said Osameh Odeh, 35, whose Eden Wear clothing store was empty one recent afternoon. "People don't come out of their houses anymore."


"People used to feel secure here; they'd come in, spend two, three hours," said Vela, sitting in his mostly empty restaurant, lined with mirrors and a full bar. "Now they eat and run." He recalled one recent evening when two families were eating dinner. Their cellphones rang. Friends were alerting them that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio — strongly disliked in the area for his targeting of illegal immigrants — had sent deputies to raid a nearby car wash. The families quickly asked for their checks, paid and ran from the restaurant.

A Washington Post story about the effects of SB 1070 approached the issue from multiple perspectives, including from the perspective of the police:

BENSON, ARIZ. -- Paul Moncada, the silver-haired police chief of this highway town, spent a recent morning anxiously checking the TV for news about Arizona's controversial new immigration law, set to take effect in a matter of days.

He sifted through stacks of state training materials, which still left him with lots of questions. And he worried about the frustrated people in town who might sue him for not enforcing the new law well enough, the frustrated people in town who might accuse him of racial profiling and the thousands who cross the blazing desert around here and whose lives he is also duty-bound to protect. "There's pressure from all sides, and I understand all the sides," said Moncada, 56, who grew up here and has served on the force 34 years. "I'm just telling my officers: Do your job. It's nerve-racking."

From the perspective of local residents:

Some residents have come to associate a general sense of decline with illegal immigration, which is visible here in the desert litter of backpacks and water jugs, and in the crammed-full vans that drivers sometimes ditch along the highways, sending passengers fleeing. In that context, the new law has inspired feelings from profound unease to a kind of righteous victory, which often sort along ethnic lines.


Like many who grew up in Benson, Bevin Judd remembers giving bread and water to Mexican farmworkers who crossed through town when he was a kid. He remembers leaving doors unlocked, keys in the car. "But now it almost seems like there's a criminal element to it," he said. The sense that crime has increased with illegal immigration isn't supported by either local or statewide crime statistics, although that is difficult for some around here to believe.

"It makes you afraid," said Danna Judd, a deputy city clerk. "You don't know who is out there. Are they drug smugglers? Do they have guns?"

From the perspective of illegal immigrants:

"I always try to dress clean, not dirty, like I've been walking through the desert," Marco said. Still, he worries about what might happen.

"Maybe it was a mistake to bring my family here," he said. "If it gets too tough, I will go. Maybe California."

National immigration news

The state investigation into the source of letters containing 1,300 names of illegal immigrants has led to the Utah Department of Workforce Services, reported the Salt Lake Tribune.

The town of Fremont, Neb. is back in the news as two federal lawsuits were filed against an ordinance that prohibits renting or hiring illegal immigrants, reported the Washington Post:

About 45 percent of the town's eligible voters turned out for the special election, approving the ordinance 57 percent to 43 percent. Supporters of the law said it was needed because illegal immigrants were taking away jobs from legal workers and because the federal government has refused to take sufficient action against illegal immigration.

The Los Angeles Times published a piece on the humanity of illegal immigration. In an opinion piece by Edward Schumacher-Matos in the Washington Post, he draws a parallel between the deaths of American soldiers in Afghanistan and the deaths of illegal immigrants that die trying to cross the U.S. / Mexico border:

"Last year, 317 Americans died fighting in Afghanistan. Guess how many migrants, mostly Mexicans searching for work, died crossing illegally into America? The Border Patrol collected 422 in the last fiscal year, part of a rising trend. Yet these deaths figure little in the debate over immigration. There is faint sense of scandal, of tragedy or, certainly, of urgency to agree on a solution. The extremists rule, with one side calling for more enforcement and the other saying enforcement doesn't work.

According to Schumacher-Matos, opinions in Washington, D.C. differ greatly from those that are heard by the rest of the country:

If our nation's legislators felt free to vote their conscience and intelligence, it's a good bet that at least 80 percent of the Senate and two-thirds of the House would vote now for a comprehensive immigration package. It would include a robust temporary worker program, improved workplace enforcement, recruitment of highly skilled immigrants and a pathway to legalization for the estimated 10.8 million unauthorized immigrants here.

There would be wrangling over the details, but the agreement on these principles is no secret among Washington insiders in the debate. The rest of the country just doesn't know it.

The New York Times reported that many public schools in New York require immigration information before students are admitted:

Three decades after the Supreme Court ruled that immigration violations cannot be used as a basis to deny children equal access to a public school education, one in five school districts in New York State is routinely requiring a child’s immigration papers as a prerequisite to enrollment, or asking parents for information that only lawful immigrants can provide.

The New York Civil Liberties Union, which culled a list of 139 such districts from hundreds of registration forms and instructions posted online, has not found any children turned away for lack of immigration paperwork. But it warned in a letter to the state’s education commissioner on Wednesday that the requirements listed by many registrars, however free of discriminatory intent, “will inevitably discourage families from enrolling in school for fear that they would be reported to federal immigration authorities.”

For months, the group has been pushing the State Education Department to stop the practices, which range from what the advocates consider unintentional barriers, like requiring a Social Security number, to those the letter called “blatantly discriminatory,” like one demanding that noncitizen children show a “resident alien card,” with the warning that “if the card is expired, it will not be accepted.”

Border news

The U.S. Senate voted against including emergency border funding in the war appropriations bill, reported the Arizona Daily Star:

Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords says she is outraged at her Senate colleagues for killing $700 million in emergency border security funds from a war funding appropriations bill.

On Thursday night, the Senate voted against some $20 billion in domestic spending that was tacked onto a $59 billion war funding request. The additional projects included stepped-up border security efforts, as well as money for teachers, summer jobs and student loans. In large part, Republicans said the funding was an end-run around the pay-as-you-go law that requires new discretionary spending to be offset with either cuts or revenue increases.


The money stripped from the bill included $208 million for 1,200 additional Border Patrol agents, $136 million for additional officers and canine teams at ports of entry, as well as money for additional courts and detention costs.

A border sheriff withdrew his support for Sen. John McCain in the upcoming U.S. Senate elections because McCain supports SB 1070, reported the Nogales International:

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Antonio Estrada is no longer endorsing John McCain’s reelection bid, and he’s citing the Republican senator’s support of Arizona’s new immigration law as a major factor in the split. Instead, Estrada is throwing his weight behind Democratic senatorial candidate Randy Parraz, who, like the sheriff, has voiced strong opposition to the law. “There’s quite a lot of difference between (McCain) and myself,” Estrada said. “Parraz seems more aligned with my way of thinking.”

The Mexican military returned to Ciudad Juarez to look for explosives, weapons and drugs after a car bomb aimed at a patrol exploded last week and killed three people, reported El Universal.

Curtis Prendergast also writes for The Sonoran Chronicle.

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