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Federal appeals court strikes down Arizona immigrant bail law

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Wednesday that an Arizona law that acted to deny bail to individuals in the US illegally and charged with a range of felonies was unconstitutional. Proposition 100 [text, PDF], passed in 2006, prohibited bail for individuals charged with both "committing a serious felony offense, and who have entered or remained in the United States illegally." The Arizona legislature defines [ARS § 13-3961] serious offenses to include any Class 1, 2, 3 or 4 felony or any aggravated driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs violation. The Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, decided 9-2 that the proposition violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court applied the heightened substantive due process scrutiny put forth by the US Supreme Court in United States v. Salerno [text], finding that the state failed to satisfy the standard because the law did not address an "acute problem" in Arizona and a was not tailored to a "specific category of extremely serious offenses." Proposition 100 had been the subject of a series of court cases [LAT report] and had previously been upheld by the Ninth Circuit in a 2-1 decision last year before a panel of circuit judges voted to hear the case en banc.

US immigration law [JURIST backgrounder] continues to be a controversial and heavily politicized area of law. Earlier this month the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund [official website] filed [JURIST report] a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement [official websites] alleging widespread sexual abuse and harassment taking place at the immigration family detention center of Karnes City, Texas. In August the American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] settled a federal lawsuit [JURIST report] requiring US immigration authorities to ensure that undocumented Mexican immigrants are made aware of their right to a hearing before an immigration judge. In June the Obama administration announced that it would boost the ranks of immigration judges, lawyers and asylum officers [JURIST report] to decrease the flow of undocumented children into the country.

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