Judge issued a temporary injunction against parts of the law that would require police to determine the status of people they lawfully stopped and suspected were in the country illegally.
PHOENIX – A federal judge on Wednesday blocked most of a controversial Arizona immigration law just hours before it was to take effect, handing the Obama administration a win in the first stage of a legal battle expected to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton in Phoenix issued a temporary injunction against parts of the law that would require police to determine the status of people they lawfully stopped and suspected were in the country illegally.
Bolton also forbade Arizona from making it a state crime to not carry immigration documents, and struck down two other provisions as an unconstitutional attempt by Arizona to undermine the federal government's efforts to enforce immigration policy.
In her 36-page decision, Bolton wrote that the provisions would have inevitably "swept up" legal immigrants and were "preempted" by the federal government's immigration authority.
"The court by no means disregards Arizona's interests in controlling illegal immigration and addressing the concurrent problems with crime," she wrote. But, she added, "it is not in the public interest for Arizona to enforce preempted laws."
Gov. Jan Brewer vowed a swift appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. "We would have liked to have seen it all upheld, but a temporary injunction is not the end of it," she said through a smile after an appearance in Tucson. "I look at this as a little bump in the road."
Immigrant rights advocates, who had been gearing up for protests after the law takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, were ebullient.
"It's a victory for the community," said Lydia Guzman, president of Somos America, or We Are America. "It means justice will truly prevail."
Bolton's decision came as little surprise to many legal experts, who had predicted that the law, SB 1070, would be halted because it appeared to contradict U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Brewer signed the measure April 23, saying it is needed to protect Arizona from violence and lawlessness associated with illegal immigrants entering the country from Mexico.
Half of all people stopped for entering the country illegally are detained on Arizona's southern border.
Civil rights groups and then the Obama administration sued, contending that the measure would lead to racial profiling and interfere with the federal government's ability to regulate immigration. The law would allow Arizona, for example, to prosecute people the federal government might believe have a right to remain in the country, such as asylum seekers.
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