Tensions Run High in Arizona Immigration Hearing

KSAZ-TV (Phoenix), July 22, 2010

Inside the courtroom, it was the state of Arizona vs. the federal government. Outside the courtroom, it was protesters vs. supporters.

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U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton heard two different cases Thursday: the first one filed by several civil rights groups including the ACLU, the second filed by the Justice Department. Federal lawyers asked for an injunction to stop the law from going into effect on July 29.

Inside the courtroom

The judge asked both sides some very tough questions, but as the nearly 2-hour session came to a close, it became fairly clear how the judge feels about parts of this law.

With Governor Brewer in the courtroom, lawyers for the federal government blasted parts of SB 1070.

Deputy solicitor general Edwin Kneedler, who’s argued more than 100 cases before the Supreme Court, said SB 1070 infringed on the federal government’s unquestionable and exclusive power to enforce immigration law. He also cited the damage it could cause foreign relationships.

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It appears the judge may have an issue with Section 3 of the law, which makes it a state crime to be here illegally. Federal lawyers argued that that steps on the government’s toes.

The judge also pointed out that 1070 contains a severability clause, which means she could strike down parts of the law, not necessarily the whole thing.

It is possible that the judge could, for example, say it’s unconstitutional to bring undocumented immigrants to jail on a state crime, but she may be okay with requiring officers to ask about someone’s status and turn them over to ICE.

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Earlier Thursday, Judge Bolton heard the case filed by several civil rights groups including the ACLU, the Mexican American Defense League, and Friendly House. Their suit claims the law will lead to racial profiling and could harm the people of Arizona.

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There’s no indication on when the judge could rule.

Outside the courtroom

While some supporters gathered outside Phoenix’s Federal Courthouse, the majority of gatherers outside the building were protesters.

Armed with drums, hand-made signs and megaphones, opponents rallied to make their opinions heard.

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The protest remained peaceful until the end of the afternoon–a group of 7 people parked themselves in the middle of an intersection and refused to leave–and were arrested and booked into jail.

The group was holding a banner that read, “We will not comply,” and face charges of obstructing a public thoroughfare. Police say they gave them several warnings and opportunities to disperse but they refused.

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