How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

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

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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.

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.

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More of what to expect as SB 1070's 'papers please' provision takes effect

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A protester holds a placard during a protest against Arizona Senate Bill 1070 on April 25, 2012 outside of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC.

Two days ago in Phoenix, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled that local police could begin enforcing the most controversial provision of SB 1070, the state's much-imitated 2010 anti-illegal immigration law.

Known as Section 2(B), it allows local police to check the immigration status of people they come across who they suspect of being in the country illegally. It was the only one of four contested provisions upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in June, although the high court did so with the caveat that while Section 2(B) didn't appear to conflict with federal law as written, it was open to further legal challenges once in practice.

Since then, immigrant advocates in Arizona have been advising immigrants who are pulled over to provide only minimal information to police, while protesters have taken to the streets. Civil rights organizations, meanwhile, are preparing for complaints of racial profiling and potential lawsuits.

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Now that Arizona's 'papers please' law has green light, what's next?

The most contested provision of Arizona's SB 1070 anti-illegal immigration law has been cleared to go into effect, although chances are the legal saga surrounding the 2010 law is far from over.

U.S District Judge Susan Bolton denied a request yesterday for another injunction blocking SB 1070's Section 2 (B), the controversial so-called "papers please" provision allowing state and local police officers to check for immigration status if they suspect a person is the country illegally. It was the only one of four contested sections that was upheld, with caveats, by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.

Bolton was the same judge who issued an injunction blocking these provisions in July 2010, just before the law was partly enacted; the case went back to her following the high court's decision. At the same time, civil rights and other groups had renewed a legal challenge based on racial profiling concerns.

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Post-Supreme Court, the state of state immigration enforcement laws

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Photo by C. Elle/Flickr (Creative Commons)

An anti-HB 87 protest in Atlanta, Georgia, July 2011

While the same judge who blocked key provisions of SB 1070 in Arizona weights if and when its most controversial section will be enforced, the trickle-down from the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on SB 1070 in June has been taking effect in other states.

Earlier this week, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled both against and in favor of contested provisions of SB 1070-style laws in Alabama and Georgia, two of five states that have followed Arizona's lead since 2010. Here's a quick rundown of what held and didn't.

Alabama: Perhaps the most hotly contested provision of Alabama's HB 56 was one that would have required public schools to verify students' immigration status. The appeals court ruled this provision unconstitutional. At the same time, it upheld a provision similar to Arizona's still-contested Section 2(B), the so-called "papers please"provision that would allow local law enforcement to check the immigration status of people they suspect are in the country illegally and which was upheld by the Supreme Court, with the caveat that it could still face other challenges. From the Montgomery Advertiser:

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A slowdown in state immigration bills introduced, enacted

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The Arizona State Capitol building in Phoenix

The recent crush of state laws related to immigration continues to slow, and just as Arizona's SB 1070 helped fuel it, the legal trajectory of the trendsetting 2010 anti-illegal immigration law has helped slow it down.

The National Conference of State Legislatures, which keeps tabs on this, announced in a report today that the number of immigration-related state laws introduced and enacted so far this year has "dropped markedly" from previous years. Between Jan. 1 and June 30 of this year, lawmakers in 46 states and the District of Columbia introduced a total of 948 bills and resolutions related to immigrants and refugees, compared with 1,592 in the first half of last year.

That is a 40 percent drop altogether. Similarly, the number of immigration-related state measures enacted has dropped: In the first half of 2012, 41 state legislatures enacted 114 immigration-related bills and adopted 92 resolutions, 20 percent fewer measures than the 257 state laws and resolutions enacted in the first half of 2011.

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