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June 25, 2010 > Federal court asked to block anti-immigrant law

Federal court asked to block anti-immigrant law

Submitted By Gwen Mitchell and Miguel Marquez

Joined by cities and counties from around the nation, Santa Clara County filed an amicus curiae brief on June 16, 2010, in Arizona urging a federal district court to block enforcement of the State of Arizona's new anti-immigrant law. The brief was filed in "Friendly House et al. v. Whiting et al.," a case brought by a group of plaintiffs seeking to have the law invalidated. Santa Clara County and several other local governments joining its brief - the counties of Monterey and Los Angeles and the cities of Baltimore, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Haven, Palo Alto, Portland (Oregon), Saint Paul, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle - filed the brief in support of the plaintiffs' request for an injunction preventing the law from taking effect while the court considers its constitutionality.

"Arizona's law is a direct assault on people's civil rights and will increase the real fears of racial profiling in communities nationwide," said Santa Clara County Supervisor George Shirakawa. "We've worked hard in our communities to untangle local police and sheriffs from federal immigration enforcement because public safety depends on all residents knowing they can call local officials for help when they need it. Arizona's law tries to take over the federal government's job and force local police and sheriffs away from their number one priority: protecting our communities."

In their brief, the local governments argue that Arizona's SB 1070, slated to take effect on July 29, is unconstitutional, impractical, costly and deeply damaging to the relationships of trust law enforcement agencies have built with immigrant communities and the public at-large.

"SB 1070 suggests, wrongly, the enforcement of federal civil immigration law is the proper responsibility of local government officials and that basic constitutional principles do not apply when those officials are investigating or enforcing immigration law," the local governments argue in their brief. "That message will be heard not just in Arizona, but in every state in the country, making immigrants, whether they are naturalized citizens, lawful permanent residents, visa holders or undocumented individuals, distrustful of local government and law enforcement officials."

The local governments filing the brief provide essential services to local residents, including maintaining safe communities through the funding, operation and oversight of local law enforcement agencies. They argue Arizona's law "imposes vague and unworkable requirements" on local law enforcement officers. Structurally, they say, Arizona's law essentially requires officers to engage in racial profiling and other unconstitutional conduct, leading to serious repercussions for law enforcement relationships with people of color and long-term negative effects on the ability of local governments to protect their residents' safety.

Santa Clara County Counsel Miguel Marquez explains that local governments across the nation are concerned about what will happen if the Arizona law is allowed to take effect:

"By filing a brief as a friend of the court, we offer an important perspective on how local governments both inside and outside Arizona are harmed by a law like SB 1070, which breeds fear and mistrust of government in immigrant communities and communities of color all across the country," said Marquez. "The Arizona legislature's decision to make up its own immigration laws because it doesn't like the federal government's approach is completely inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution and hurts the ability of local governments all across the country to ensure public safety.

"We know there are many other localities that are beginning to consider how Arizona's anti-immigrant policies might affect them and we invite them to join us in opposing Arizona's law," said Marquez.

In ruling on the pending motion for preliminary injunction, a federal judge will consider whether to put Arizona's SB 1070 on hold based on its effects on the people of Arizona, local and state governments in Arizona, and the public interest. Plaintiffs in the case are labor, business, domestic violence, human services, social justice and religious organizations, as well as a class of individuals who will be subject to harassment or arrest under the law. The lawsuit names as defendants the Arizona County Attorneys and Sheriffs who are required to enforce SB 1070 if it is permitted to take effect on July 29, 2010. The State of Arizona has intervened to defend the law.

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