Parts of Arizona's tough new immigration law take effect today, while the most controversial elements remain on hold after a federal judge Wednesday issued a temporary injunction during the continuing legal battle.
Among the provisions U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton blocked from immediate enforcement 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."
Lawyers for the State of Arizona plan to appeal the preliminary injunction to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Bolton's decision comes as a relief to the more than half million undocumented immigrants who live in Arizona, some of whom were preparing to flee the state in advance of the law's taking effect.
"This ruling is great because it diffuses a potentially explosive situation where ordinary citizens could have been detained or arrested for not carrying their so-called immigration papers," Democratic strategist Donna Brazile said Thursday on "Good Morning America." "The federal government has a role in this, and that's what the Justice Department did when they filed the lawsuit to stop this controversial law from going into effect."
Both sides of the debate agree the federal government must address problems with the nation's immigration system. But reform legislation has failed to gain traction in Washington in a difficult political climate.
"I think you now have two presidents [George W. Bush and President Obama] who basically have the same position on comprehensive immigration reform, and that's because you talk to the policy folks, and it's nearly impossible to do this piecemeal," said Nicole Wallace, former White House communications director for President Bush, on "Good Morning America." "What's changed is opposition. It is so hard."
Meanwhile, some aspects of SB 1070 will take effect today 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.