PHOENIX (CN) – Arizona’s new immigration law “mirrors federal law” and “expressly prohibits racial profiling,” an attorney for the state told a federal judge Thursday, defending the state in a challenge to the law slated to take effect on July 29. Gov. Jan Brewer’s attorney, John Bouma, told U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton that “the status quo is simply unacceptable” and that Arizona “should be helping the federal government fix this broken system.”
Bouma spoke after Judge Bolton heard arguments from civil rights groups, including the ACLU and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, in the second federal hearing on the controversial immigration law. The U.S. Department of Justice also claims the state law is unconstitutional.
Attorney Nina Perales, representing MALDEF, said the law “establishes a scheme to prosecute non-citizens” and “puts an enormous amount of pressure on law enforcement to enforce the law to the maximum.”
The civil rights groups want the law declared unconstitutional its enforcement enjoined.
Perales’ concerns that “somebody can do something inadvertent and get pulled over,” were rejected by Bouma, who claimed that the plaintiffs did not have a “specific” fear.
“A fear or belief that you might be prosecuted is not enough (for standing),” Bouma said.
The state law requires police officers to determine the immigration status of a person if the officer has “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country illegally.
“How can a police officer make a determination that a person has committed a removable offense when that decision can only be made by a federal judge?” Bolton asked.
Bouma responded that the person’s status will be reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and “they’ll decide what to do with them.”
When Omar Jadwat, also an attorney for MALDEF, told Bolton that the law is “unconstitutional and dangerous,” she interrupted him to say that she would not block the entire law because of its severability clause.
Jadwat told Bolton that the law “uses an improper classification scheme” by failing to consider undocumented aliens who are seeking asylum. He said it also violates some individuals’ right to travel.
Residents of New Mexico, Utah and Washington are not required to have proof of U.S. citizenship or immigration status to get a driver’s license, Jadwat said, making such licenses invalid in Arizona as a form of identification.
Bolton heard from the Department of Justice later in the afternoon, with Gov. Brewer in attendance. Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler told the judge that “this is a nation of immigrations – there is a policy of welcoming immigrants,” and added that the Arizona law acts as “its own public policy.”
“Why can’t Arizona be as inhospitable as they wish to people who have entered the United States illegally?” Bolton asked in front of a packed courthouse.
Kneedler replied: “It is a direct intrusion into federal immigration laws.” He added that immigration laws are “dictated by the Supremacy Clause,” which grants the federal government power to regulate immigration.
“Where’s the preemption if everybody who is arrested … has their status checked?” Bolton asked.
“If every state adopted something like this, there would be a huge siege of requests from the LESC [Law Enforcement Support Center],” Kneedler said. The law “takes advantage of the stop to impose an immigration check,” and “how that should be handled is a matter of federal law,” he said.
The Justice Department claims the Arizona law will cause “detention and harassment” of legal visitors, citizens and immigrants who do not carry identification.
But Bouma said, “What we’re doing is perfectly all right. I don’t think there are any inconsistencies between SB 1070 and federal law.”
Bolton cited a sign erected by the Bureau of Land Management outside of Phoenix, warning, “Travel not recommended” because “Visitors may encounter armed criminals and smuggling vehicles traveling at high rates of speed.”
“You can barely go a day without a location being found in Phoenix where there are numerous people being harbored,” Bolton said.
Judge Bolton has yet to issue a ruling.