A judge for the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] on Wednesday issued a preliminary injunction [order, PDF] against several provisions of a controversial Arizona immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive], which is set to take effect Thursday. The injunction comes at the request of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], which filed its suit challenging the constitutionality of the law [JURIST report] earlier this month. Judge Susan Bolton rejected the DOJ's argument that the law should be enjoined in its entirety, finding that the individual provisions of the law were severable. Bolton issued the injunction against provisions of the law requiring the verification of the immigration status of people reasonably suspected of being illegal immigrants and authorizing the warrantless arrest of those police have probable cause to believe have committed an offense that could lead to deportation. The court also enjoined a provision of the law requiring noncitizens to carry their registration papers with them at all times, agreeing with the DOJ's assertion that "the federal government has long rejected a system by which aliens' papers are routinely demanded and checked." Bolton ruled that the government was likely to prevail in its claim that these provisions are superseded by federal law, violating the Supremacy Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] of the US Constitution [text], and would suffer irreparable harm if the provisions went into effect because they would impair its ability to enforce federal policy. The court declined to enjoin several other provisions of the law, finding that the DOJ was not likely to prevail in its claims against them. This included provisions making it a state crime to harbor illegal immigrants and allowing for the impoundment of vehicles used in their transportation. Bolton also rejected the argument that the law violated the Commerce Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] by discriminating against interstate commerce.
The DOJ filed its complaint earlier this month, arguing that the Constitution and federal law "do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country." The DOJ also claims that the federal government has preeminent authority to regulate immigration matters and that the enforcement of the Arizona law is counterproductive to the national immigration policy and will interfere with foreign relations with Mexico and other countries. The law has been widely criticized as unconstitutional and allegedly legalizing racial profiling. Also in July, the American Bar Association (ABA) [official website] filed an amicus curiae brief [JURIST report] in support of the DOJ lawsuit, following the submission of another amicus curiae brief [JURIST report] in support of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website]. In the brief filed in support of the US, the ABA also argues that the Arizona law would interfere with law enforcement officers' public safety functions and infringe on both citizens' and noncitizens' constitutional rights by placing upon them the burden of proving their citizenship.