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Appeals court begins SB 1070 hearings


Arizona’s immigration law finally got its day in court after being watered down in July.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments for and against Senate Bill 1070 on Monday.  Debate included whether Arizona could enforce immigration laws without conflicting with federal law. The proceedings were broadcast live on C-SPAN.

Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill into law last April, but four key provisions were put on hold by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton in July after the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Arizona and Brewer.

John Bouma, Arizona’s private lawyer for the case, argued that the state is not trying to alter federal immigration laws, but is asking to enforce federal law at the state level.

“All Arizona is saying is, play by the rules,” Bouma said. “Arizona is bearing the brunt of the federal government's failure to enforce it.”

However, Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler, the attorney for the Justice Department, said having various state immigration laws could interfere with U.S. foreign relations.

“The subject matter of immigration … is a core aspect of foreign relations, and indeed one of the purposes for adoption of the Constitution is a concern that individual states might embroil the entire nation in disputes with other countries,” Kneedler said.  “It's important not to allow for a patchwork of state laws, but rather for the nation to speak in one voice.”

However, Judge John Noonan shut down Kneedler’s argument against Arizona’s immigration law, saying he didn’t have one.

“I think the proper position would be to concede you don’t have an argument,” Noonan said.

Brewer appealed the district court’s decision July 29 after Bolton put a hold on the certain parts of the law.

Brewer was in San Francisco to attend the hearing a day before Arizona’s election. Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, and Arizona State Attorney General Republican candidate Tom Horne also accompanied her.

“The district court applied the wrong legal standard of review and issued a preliminary injunction that preserves the status quo — a status quo that is unacceptable to the people lawfully present in Arizona, many whose lives are affected on a daily basis,” Brewer said in a statement released after the hearing.

The fact that Brewer attended the hearing will help her out on Election Day, said Dave Wells, an ASU political science professor.

It will still take weeks or perhaps months until the three-judge panel rules on SB 1070.

But Wells believes they will uphold Bolton’s decision because Arizona’s law conflicts with federal immigration laws, and the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges tend to vote liberal.

“Historically, the Ninth Circuit is a bit more liberal than the U.S. Supreme Court,” Wells said.

Under current federal law, crossing the border without proper documentation is considered a misdemeanor.

But a provision blocked by Bolton tried to make it a state crime if people didn’t register for or carry their “alien-registration papers.”

SB 1070 has been considered to affect the Hispanic community and two of the judges on the panel come from Hispanic descent.  The judges were selected at random to handle the case.

Judge Carlos Bea, originally from Spain, was once ordered to be deported, but he appealed and won. Republican President George W. Bush appointed Bea.

Democratic President Bill Clinton appointed Judge Richard Paez, whose parents emigrated from Mexico. Republican President Ronald Reagan appointed Noonan.

U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said SB 1070 is not a law that he would write, but feels that Arizona has the right to secure its borders.

“It has been polarized so much that no one cares what people say about [SB 1070],” Franks said. “I do feel that it’s constitutional.”

The ASU College Republicans at Tempe’s campus invited Franks to speak to the club Thursday night.

“In most likelihood it will go to the Supreme Court,” said Tyler Bowyer, president of the club. But “looking at that point is not helpful.”

Reach the reporter at uriel.garcia@asu.edu

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