Arizona’s impending immigration law went before a federal judge for the first time Thursday, and attorneys for both sides sparred over who had the right to enforce immigration law: local officials or the federal government.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton didn’t rule on whether to block the law from taking effect July 29, or whether to dismiss the lawsuit, one of seven. Hearings in two other lawsuits–including one filed by the federal government–are set for July 22, and the judge has been careful to give no hints on who she might favor.
John Bouma, an attorney representing the state, argued Arizona shouldn’t have to suffer from the country’s broken immigration system when it has 15,000 police officers who can arrest illegal immigrants.
But allowing Arizona to carry out its own immigration law violates all court decisions that hold that only the federal government can handle immigration, said Stephen Montoya, an attorney for Phoenix police Officer David Salgado, who filed the lawsuit along with the statewide nonprofit group Chicanos Por La Causa.
“The federal government doesn’t want this assistance,” Montoya said.
More than 25,000 people have donated more than $1.2 million to a fund established in May to help the state pay to defend the law, Gov. Jan Brewer’s office said Thursday.
Salgado’s attorneys want the judge to block the law before it takes effect, saying it would require an officer to use race as a primary factor in deciding how to enforce it. Supporters insist that officers would not be allowed to question someone based solely on their race.
Attorneys for Brewer told Bolton that the lawsuit should be dismissed because Salgado and the group haven’t alleged a real threat of harm from enforcing the new law and instead are basing their claim on speculation.
Protesters and supporters of the law gathered outside the courthouse, separated by at least seven Phoenix police officers.
About 10 feet away, some 30 people opposed to the law held up signs calling for its repeal.
“We demand an injunction. We demand a federal intervention,” opponent Sandra Castro of Phoenix, 22, yelled into a bullhorn.
The other challenges to the law were filed by the civil rights organizations, clergy groups, a researcher from Washington and a Tucson police officer.