(CN) – A federal judge has blocked an element of Arizona’s tough immigration law that criminalized stopping traffic to solicit workers or services.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, who in 2010 put other controversial portions of SB 1070 on hold pending a Supreme Court decision, granted a preliminary injunction on Wednesday to advocacy groups that said the law limits workers’ free speech.
Bolton had denied a similar request last year, but a recent ruling in the 9th Circuit prompted a renewed motion.
In Comite de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach v. City of Redondo Beach, the San Francisco-based federal appeals court ruled that the California city’s ordinance banning day laborers was too broad and “significantly overinclusive.” The full court said it could technically be applied to Girl Scouts selling cookies outside of their schools and kids with lemonade stands.
Arizona argued that the ordinance floated in SB 1070 was about public safety, not speech. Bolton echoed the 9th Circuit, however, in finding the statute broader than necessary.
“The court finds that defendants have not shown that A.R.S. §13-2928(A) and (B), which are content-based restrictions of speech, are drawn to achieve the substantial governmental interest in traffic safety,” she wrote.
“The adoption of a content-based ban on speech indicates that the legislature did not draft these provisions after careful evaluation of the burden on free speech,” she added.
Bolton granted the preliminary injunction after finding that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their First Amendment case.
“Plaintiffs have demonstrated that they have a significant interest in exercising their First Amendment rights, as explained above,” she wrote. “Not only is the exercise of free speech a crucial civil right, plaintiffs have shown that they and their members are being chilled from soliciting employment by the threat of enforcement of A.R.S. §13-2928(A) and (B).”
Arizona Gov. Janice Brewer, who has championed the state’s efforts to regulate immigration much to the chagrin of the executive branch, said she was disappointed in Bolton’s ruling.
“The provision, which would have prohibited day laborers from blocking traffic when seeking work on public roadways, was put in place as a necessary traffic safety measure,” Brewer said in a statement. “Judge Bolton’s ruling represents an erosion of the state’s ability to regulate public safety. This ruling provides yet another reason why I look forward to the Supreme Court providing guidance on the constitutionality of SB 1070. I am confident that, when the case reaches the high court in April, the constitutionality of SB 1070 will be affirmed. I will continue to fight for this important law and for Arizona’s right to defend itself and the well-being of its citizens.”