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Arizona to take appeal on immigration law straight to Supreme Court

Arizona officials say they will bypass another appeal in the Ninth US Circuit in order to speed up the process. They are asking that a federal judge's injunction against the immigration law be overturned.

By Staff writer / May 9, 2011

Sen. Russell Pearce (l.), attorney John Bouma, Gov. Jan Brewer (2nd r.), and Attorney General Tom Horne (r.), hold a news conference to announce the state's decision to appeal to the United States Supreme Court by July 11, a decision by a lower court that put the most controversial parts of the state's immigration enforcement law on hold, Monday, in Phoenix.

Michael Schennum/The Arizona Republic/AP

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Arizona will appeal directly to the US Supreme Court in a bid to overturn an injunction blocking key parts of the state’s controversial immigration law, state officials announced Monday.

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Gov. Jan Brewer said she and Attorney General Tom Horne had decided to take the case directly to the nation’s highest court, asking it to examine whether US District Judge Susan Bolton acted correctly when she issued her injunction in Phoenix last summer.

A three-judge panel of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the injunction on April 11. Arizona could ask all active judges on the Ninth Circuit to rehear the appeal, but state officials decided it would be faster to take the case directly to the Supreme Court.

“I’ve always known this legal fight would be a long one,” Governor Brewer said, “but now that this is the path we’ve chosen, I am confident Arizona will prevail.”

The Arizona law, known as SB 1070, required state and local police during a valid stop to check the immigration status of anyone they suspected might be in the US illegally.

Opponents complained that it could lead to racial profiling.

The law also required immigrants to carry federal immigration papers, made it illegal for undocumented immigrants to work in Arizona, and authorized warrantless arrests of anyone who had committed a deportable offense.

Judge Bolton blocked the four provisions in a July ruling issued on the eve of the new law taking effect.

Justice Department lawyers representing the Obama administration argued that SB 1070 conflicted with national immigration statutes and policies set in Washington. They said the state law was preempted by federal law.

Arizona officials said the tough immigration law was consistent with tough federal statutes passed by Congress. The problem, they said, was that the Obama administration was unwilling to enforce federal immigration law to protect border states from illegal immigration and associated problems.

The Ninth Circuit agreed with Bolton that the Obama administration was likely to win the case at trial and thus was entitled to an injunction blocking implementation of the four provisions.

Arizona officials said they were not discouraged by the appeals court ruling.

“When faced with injustice, Arizonans will not sit idly by. We will act,” the governor said. “For decades, the federal government has neglected its constitutional duty to secure the border. It is because of that negligence that Arizona was forced to take action to protect its citizens via SB 1070.”

“Our issue is bigger than simply border security,” Brewer said. “It’s about the principle that a state must be able to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens, especially in the absence of sufficient federal assistance.”

Under Supreme Court procedures, Arizona will submit a brief asking the high court to take up the case. The Obama administration will have an opportunity to respond in a brief of its own.

The state’s appeal must be filed by July 11. The court will likely decide next fall whether to take up the case.

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