PHOENIX (CN) – A police officer’s lawsuit challenging the new Arizona immigration law was filed on “speculative” claims that he may be fired or lose his license if he refuses to enforce the law, an attorney for the state claimed in the first federal court hearing on the controversial immigration law.
John Bouma, attorney for Gov. Jan Brewer, told Judge Susan Bolton that the law was passed for police officers, “for their protection,” to give them the authority to question and check an individual’s immigration status.
Bouma said the lawsuit filed by Officer David Salgado and Chicanos Por La Causa, a community development non-profit, should be dismissed because “plaintiffs have not established irreparable harm.” Bolton also expressed concerns that Salgado does not have standing, because “the only thing that Officer Salgado has said is that he’ll violate his oath” since he thinks the law is unconstitutional.
“The State of Arizona cannot order its employees to violate federal law,” replied Salgado’s attorney, Stephen Montoya. “If (the state) is going to urge others to enforce the law, there’s standing.”
Although the law says that police officers will be indemnified for costs and attorneys’ fees connected with any lawsuits brought by citizens who were wrongfully questioned or arrested, Salgado says he still may incur costs if he refuses to enforce it.
“The City of Phoenix has a tendency to not indemnify officers,” Montoya said.
The state law, slated to take effect July 29, allows officers to search vehicles without warrant if an officer has a “reasonable suspicion” that occupants do not have immigration papers.
“In this case, the government of the United States has said the law is unconstitutional,” Montoya said, addressing claims made by Salgado and Chicanos Por La Causa that the state law usurps federal law.
“You don’t have to have reasonable suspicion to question someone about their immigration status,” Bouma said. “That is a whole lot higher standard than the federal government.”
Bolton said the law reads like “we will just make it a violation of Arizona law to violate federal law,” since Arizona cannot adopt its own law to regulate immigration.
Bouma told Bolton that “there is nothing that says Arizona cannot adopt federal law.” He claimed that the act does not require people to carry immigration papers that are not already required by federal law.
Montoya asked Bolton to block the law for another 30 days because “law enforcement has enough to bust bad guys as it is.” She did not rule on whether to delay the law or to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims.
This is the first of seven challenges to Arizona’s immigration law in Federal Court.
The Justice Department will argue against the new law at a July 22 hearing.