[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Tuesday upheld [opinion, PDF] a lower court’s ruling that dismissed a challenge to Arizona’s Proposition 100 [text, PDF], a voter-approved amendment which denies bail to undocumented immigrants being held for serious felonies. The plaintiffs, represented by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] attorney Cecillia Wang, argued that the law denies immigrants their due process rights and serves an unlawful punitive purpose. The appeals court, finding no evidence in the law’s legislative history of a punitive purpose, was unpersuaded. In his majority opinion, Judge Richard Tallman stated “Proposition 100’s legitimate—indeed its compelling—purpose is ensuring that defendants remain in the United States to stand trial for alleged felony violations of Arizona’s criminal laws.” Judge Raymond Fisher dissented, stating:
The excessiveness and overbreadth of this scheme, particularly in light of its legislative history, reveal that the real purpose of Proposition 100 was to use the categorical denial of bail to punish arrestees—for their assumed undocumented status and for their suspected but unproven crimes.
According to Fisher, the law “reflects a serious devaluation of the presumption of innocence and the constitutional principle that arrestees may not be punished before judgment of guilt.”
The ACLU along with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund [advocacy website] filed the suit [JURIST report] in April 2008. The Arizona government approved [JURIST report] Proposition 100 in November 2006, along with three other measures directed at illegal immigration. In October 2007 the Arizona Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to the law, ruling that it did not violate undocumented immigrants’ due process rights.