By Travis Packer
U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton denied motions by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu last week to dismiss a lawsuit filed by plaintiffs against Arizona law SB 1070. Counsel for the plaintiffs, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund, and the National Immigration Law Center, alleges that SB 1070 unlawfully attempts to regulate immigration and would result in widespread racial profiling. The lawsuit is one of seven originally filed against SB 1070.
While Judge Bolton ruled that the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction against SB1070 was moot (because of the one previously granted to the Department of Justice), she also found that the plaintiffs had standing to sue because the "alleged harm to the organizational plaintiffs will occur if SB 1070 goes into effect, regardless of how it is enforced or applied." In addition, Judge Bolton stated that "race, alienage, or national origin discrimination was a motivating factor in the enactment of S.B. 1070." Judge Bolton also found that "While Governor Brewer correctly points out that, for the most part, the organizational plaintiffs' allegations involve threats of future harm, the threat of future harm is sufficiently imminent."
Specifically, the complaint filed by the ACLU and other civil rights organizations alleges that SB 1070 will result in racial profiling; will subject people of color to unlawful interrogations, searches, seizures, and arrests; and will deprive people of freedom of speech and expressive activity. Bolton ruled that the law:
[C]ontains no meaningful procedural safeguards against erroneous deprivations of liberty, and immigration status is not something that is easily ascertainable. A person who is lawfully present in the U.S. may look and act the same way as a person who does not have permission to be in the country, and plaintiffs' allegations of 'subjective and arbitrary' detention decisions by law enforcement agents are plausible.
Judge Bolton did, however, rule in favor of some of Gov. Brewer’s arguments, dismissing a First Amendment claim based on the argument that barring illegal immigrants from soliciting work violated the right to free speech. She also dismissed a claim brought by two New Mexico residents who argued their right to travel was impeded because their driver’s licenses might not be sufficient proof of status under SB 1070.
So what’s next? Seven suits have been filed against Arizona law SB 1070, two have been dismissed, and two have yet to reach argument in front of Judge Bolton. The appeal of a preliminary injunction against SB 1070 given in the Department of Justice lawsuit will be heard November 1st before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center provides a more detailed analysis of the cases against SB1070.