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Why Judge Susan Bolton blocked key parts of Arizona's SB 1070

US District Judge Susan Bolton issued a temporary injunction that halted key parts of SB 1070, the Arizona immigration law, that would have required police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspected of being an illegal resident.

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The Obama administration has said its priority is to focus on those illegal immigrants who engage in crime or are otherwise dangerous. Government lawyers said Arizona was attempting to enforce its own immigration policy.

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The judge agreed. She said the state statute created a significant enough conflict with the administration’s policies to require judicial intervention.

Arizona officials had argued that the federal-state disputes that exist are over the intensity of enforcement, not the letter and substance of federal law. They said the Arizona law was written to mirror the provisions of federal immigration law and should thus be appeal proof.

But Bolton, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, said the government would likely suffer irreparable harm should various provisions of the law take effect.

Also blocked by the judge was a section of the law that made it a state crime for any foreign resident of Arizona to fail to carry federally-issued immigration documents at all times. Federal law requires that such documents be carried at all times, but federal officials do not enforce it.

The state law sought to enforce it. In enjoining this part of the law, Judge Bolton said that establishing state penalties for violating a federal requirement altered the penalties established by Congress and thus stood as “an obstacle to the uniform, federal registration scheme.”

Bolton’s injunction also blocks the portion of the law that made it a state crime for an illegal foreign resident in Arizona to solicit, apply for, or perform work.

Much of the rest of the law remains intact and those provisions are expected to take effect Thursday.

The judge’s ruling means that Arizona officials will begin enforcing the remaining parts of the law, even while litigation about the entire law – and the enjoined sections – continues in the courts.

Among that part of the law that will now take full effect is a provision allowing Arizona residents to sue any state office or agency for failing to fully enforce immigration laws.

Also still in the law are provisions creating a new state crime of human smuggling, stopping a motor vehicle to pick up day laborers, and knowingly employing illegal foreign residents.

SB 1070 was passed after years of dissatisfaction among many Arizonans with federal efforts to police the lawless border region with Mexico. Across the border, drug cartels have been waging a bloody tug-of-war with the Mexican government. Drug and human smugglers have become increasingly active in Arizona’s rural border areas.

The issue is complicated by politics and the approaching mid-term congressional elections. Democratic strategists are hoping the continuing controversy drives a wedge between Hispanic voters and the Republican Party.

Republicans, on the other hand, are hoping more Americans are concerned about crime and border security than complaints about tough enforcement efforts. But some Republicans are worried about this strategy in the long term given the growing political clout of the Hispanic community in the US.

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