Multi-American

How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Might the need for Arizona to work with federal agents impede SB 1070?

Leon Gutierrez, of the Tucson Police Department's Gang Tactical Unit, questions a suspect about his possible gang affiliation following an altercation outside a currency exchange on June 3, 2010 in Tucson, Arizona.
Leon Gutierrez, of the Tucson Police Department's Gang Tactical Unit, questions a suspect about his possible gang affiliation following an altercation outside a currency exchange on June 3, 2010 in Tucson, Arizona. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Now that a last-minute motion by opponents of SB 1070 to block its most controversial provision has been rejected in federal appeals court, it would appear that's the last - at least for now - legal roadblock to police checking for immigration status in Arizona. But a future impediment to the state's 2010 anti-illegal immigration crackdown working as envisioned by its architects could rest with federal agents.

A piece in Flagstaff's Arizona Daily Sun does a good job of explaining why: Homeland Security revoked agreements earlier this year with several Arizona law enforcement agencies that allowed specially trained officers to determine individuals' immigration status and detain them for deportation. From the story:

That means only a federal officer can make that determination. But the Obama administration has set out a policy of spending its time pursuing only those illegal immigrants whom they consider to be high priority, including criminals and those who have repeatedly entered the country illegally. 

And more recently the administration carved out an entire class of people brought here illegally as children -- perhaps as many as 1.4 million of the 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States -- who could apply for "deferred action" status to be allowed to remain in this country.

But if state and local police spend extra time questioning people about their status -- or waiting for a response from Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- that could prove fertile ground for future challenges to SB1070 and its "Show me your papers" provision.

The story goes on to explain that when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld this component of SB 1070 in June, the justices "seemed interested in just how long someone might be detained beyond the time necessary" for the purpose of determining immigration status.

The emergency motion thrown out by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday sought to block enforcement of what's referred to as Section 2(B) of SB 1070, which allows local officers to check the immigration status of people they come across if they suspect they are in the country illegally. A federal judge in Phoenix gave the green light last week for the provision to take effect.

Section 2(B) was the only one of four contested provisions upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in its ruling, with the caveat that while it didn't appear to conflict with federal law as written, this could be up for debate once it was applied. Future legal challenges are expected, especially on civil rights grounds.

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