Arizona immigration law hit with its first 2 lawsuits


Arizona's new immigration law was hit with two lawsuits Thursday.

The National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders filed a suit in the U.S. District Court in downtown Phoenix, alleging that the law is illegal because it usurps federal authority in immigration enforcement and because of concerns the law may lead to racial profiling. The group says on its website that it represents 20,000 churches in 34 states

Meanwhile, an attorney representing a Tucson police officer has filed suit in U.S. District Court in Tucson to block the law.

A trio of other legal groups is scheduled Thursday to announce their plans to file a joint lawsuit to also challenge the law. SB 1070, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer Friday, is set to become law 90 days after adjournment of the state Legislature.

The three groups - ACLU of Arizona, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the National Immigration Law Center - also contend that the law is unconstitutional, encourages racial profiling, endangers public safety and betrays American values.

This isn't the first time the groups have worked together to challenge a state law.

Fifteen years ago, they successfully challenged Proposition 187 in California. The so-called "Save Our State Initiative" was designed to cut off social services and kindergarten-through-12th-grade education to undocumented immigrants. It was supported by nearly 60 percent of California voters Nov. 8, 1994 but it was put on hold by a federal judge almost immediately. Three years later, the court struck down many of the key provisions, determining that they were unconstitutional or not issues to be decided by the state.

A settlement of the court challenge in 1999 by Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, an opponent, left intact only stiffer penalties for those who forge immigration documents and those who use them.

MALDEF later unsuccessfully led a fight to ask the courts to strike down Arizona's Proposition 200 "Protect Arizona Now" measure. The measure, approved by voters in 2004 by a margin of 11 percent, requires public employees to check citizenship when individuals register to vote or apply for non-federally mandated public benefits.

In 2007, a federal court judge upheld key provisions of the Prop. 200. 

In Tucson, a suit on behalf of Officer Martin Escobar alleges the new immigration law violates numerous constitutional rights and could hinder police investigations in Hispanic-prevalent areas.

The lawsuit also claims it violates federal law because Tucson police and the city have no authority to perform immigration duties.

Escobar noted in the lawsuit there's no racially neutral criteria that can be used by officers to determine whether a person is in the country illegally.

AZ Central

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