Ariz. immigration law opponents file new offensive

Ariz. immigration law opponents file new offensive
AP file photo
PHOENIX (AP) - Opponents of Arizona's hardline immigration enforcement law launched a new effort Tuesday aimed at thwarting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that will allow police to enforce so-called "show me your papers" provision.

A coalition of civil rights groups, religious leaders and business organizations filed a new request seeking a court order that would prevent authorities from enforcing a rule that requires police to check the immigration status of people they stop for other reasons.

The groups are asking U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton to block enforcement of the requirement before it takes effect, arguing that Latinos in Arizona would face systematic racial profiling and unreasonably long detentions under the contentious section of the 2010 law.

They also say that immigration patrols in recent years by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Arizona lawman known for his rigid stance against illegal immigration, demonstrate that the law's requirement will disproportionately affect Latinos. Though the requirement hasn't taken effect, Arpaio said his officers have inquired about people's immigration status in the past.

In a separate case, the U.S. Justice Department has accused Arpaio's office in a lawsuit of racially profiling Latinos in immigration patrols. The sheriff denies the allegations. That case goes to trial Thursday in federal court.

Although a different challenge to the Arizona law by the Obama administration succeeded in getting three other parts of the law thrown out by the Supreme Court last month, the administration failed to get the "show me your papers" requirement overturned on its argument that federal law trumps state law. The coalition is seeking to shelve the requirement on other grounds.

Arizona's law was passed in 2010 amid voter frustration with the state's role as the busiest illegal entry point into the country. Five states - Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah - have adopted variations on Arizona's law.

Legal experts say the groups face an uphill battle in trying to persuade Bolton to bar enforcement of the requirement because the lower courts might want to wait until the requirement - which won't take effect until at least Friday - is enforced to consider actual injuries from the law, rather than confront the potential for harm.

Even if opponents don't succeed in getting the requirement put on hold, some backers of the law are questioning the level of cooperation they will get from federal immigration authorities, who will be called to verify people's immigration status and be responsible for picking up illegal immigrants from local officers.

Federal immigration officers have said they will help, but only if doing so conforms to their priorities, including catching repeat violators and identifying and removing those who threaten public safety and national security.

If federal agents decline to pick up illegal immigrants, local officers in some cases will likely have to let them go unless they're suspected of committing a crime that would require them to be brought to jail.