Arizona's tough new immigration law was just hours away from taking effect when a federal judge issued an injunction today blocking key portions of the law from being enforced.
Among the provisions U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton put on hold are the "reasonable suspicion" section that would allow police to arrest and detain suspected illegal immigrants without a warrant and a provision making it illegal for undocumented day laborers to solicit or perform work.
Bolton also stayed part of the Arizona law requiring immigrants to carry federal immigration documents.
"There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens under the new [law]," Bolton ruled. "By enforcing this statute, Arizona would impose a 'distinct, unusual and extraordinary' burden on legal resident aliens that only the federal government has the authority to impose."
Some aspects of the measure, listed as SB 1070, will take effect Thursday as planned. It will become a crime for state officials to interfere with or refrain from enforcement of federal immigration laws. It will also be illegal to pick up and transport day laborers across the state, or to give a ride to or harbor an illegal alien. A vehicle used to transport an illegal alien can be impounded.
"The Court by no means disregards Arizona's interests in controlling illegal immigration and addressing the concurrent problems with crime including the trafficking of humans, drugs, guns, and money," Bolton wrote. But the court "finds that preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely preempted by federal law to be enforced."
Lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department have argued the law interferes with the ability of the federal government to set and enforce national immigration policy.
"While we understand the frustration of Arizonans with the broken immigration system, a patchwork of state and local policies would seriously disrupt federal immigration enforcement and would ultimately be counterproductive," DOJ spokeswoman Hannah August said in support of today's ruling.
"It's a preliminary injunction so it's not final," said attorney Linton Joaquin with the National Immigration Law Center, which is party to one of the lawsuits challenging the law. "But the judge showed the most egregious provisions are pre-empted by federal law."
"It's good news for everybody," said Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum. "For now, all residents of Arizona will remain protected under the law."
Supporters of the law were disappointed at today's ruling but pointed out that the blocked provisions could still take effect after the court resolves legal questions surrounding them.
"Today the Federal Government got relief from the courts to not do their job," said Gov. Brewer. "We knew regardless of what happened today of course one side or the other side was going to appeal. So this begins the process. This is an injunction. They haven't heard really the merits of the bill."