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Arizona Gov. Appeals Judge’s Ruling on Immigration Law

July 29, 2010 at 12:00 AM EST
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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer made good on her promise to appeal a federal judge's decision to strike down parts of the immigration law she signed. Ray Suarez reports from Phoenix with the latest reactions.
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JIM LEHRER: The governor of Arizona today appealed a federal judge’s ruling that blocked parts of the state’s high-profile immigration law.

Ray Suarez reports from Phoenix on the continuing fallout.

RAY SUAREZ: Immigration activists from Arizona and around the country descended on the streets of downtown Phoenix this morning. The mood was more upbeat than organizers had planned. That’s because of the ruling yesterday by a federal judge which blocked key parts of the controversial immigration law known as SB-1070, which went into effect today.

The law was passed three months ago. It made it an Arizona class one misdemeanor to be in the United States illegally and be in the state. It required local law enforcement to check the immigration status of people they came across while enforcing other laws, and required immigrants to carry their documentation with them at all times.

These last two provisions were among those blocked by the federal court judge, who said they raised the possibility of wrongful arrest and placed too great a burden on legal residents.

Daniel Ortega is one of the lawyers who had argued before the judge against the law.

DANIEL ORTEGA, opponent of Arizona immigration law: Oh, it’s an absolute victory, because, if you look at the 14 provisions of SB-1070, the four critical ones that were ruled upon today are the ones that are the heart of this law. It is now toothless. It has been neutered.

The bottom line is that the other provisions, which are 10 approximately, are ineffectual without the police being able to enforce immigration law.

RAY SUAREZ: State Rep. Rick Murphy, who was one of the original co-sponsors of SB-1070, was disappointed by the temporary stay, but predicted it will be overturned by a higher court.

RICK MURPHY, Arizona state representative: Basically, it doesn’t seem like it makes a whole lot of sense and that it was kind of a stretch.

The idea that we cannot arrest people for breaking the law and working, when it’s illegal for them to be doing that, is kind of silly. It’s been illegal for decades. The idea that we can’t ask somebody whether or not they have their documentation with them, when federal law has required that for decades, seems kind of silly.

And so it seems like the grounds on which they relied to block this law was a stretch and that, ultimately, we will prevail on that.

RAY SUAREZ: Yesterday’s injunction did nothing to stop Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio from conducting a planned illegal immigrant crime sweep today in Phoenix. But, because much of the law is on hold, he was required to turn suspects over to border control officers, rather than put them directly in the county jail.

JOE ARPAIO, Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff: Nothing is going to deter the sheriff and my office, including rulings by the federal judge, so we will — it’s business as normal.

RAY SUAREZ: One of the things supporters of the law hoped to accomplish was to standardize police enforcement of immigration law. Currently, different departments across the state have very different practices.

In Pinal County, for instance, sheriff’s deputy Delcia Randall already spends much of her workday patrolling remote areas of this vast rural county, looking for drug smugglers and illegal immigrants. On the day we patrolled with her, she heard a noise in the bushes.

Although she didn’t find anyone this time, she said she often does, working hand-in-hand with Border Patrol agents to apprehend illegal immigrants. Over 2,000 pass through Pinal County every day. She told us SB-1070 wouldn’t really change how she does her job during routine traffic stops either.

DELCIA RANDALL, Pinal County, Arizona, sheriff’s deputy: Is this what you’re drinking?

MAN: Yes.

RAY SUAREZ: Later on this day, she arrested a farm worker who appeared to be driving under the influence and questioned him about where he was from.

MAN: I live right here.

DELCIA RANDALL: What I do is ask them for their address, ask them for their address. Where do they live? A lot of times, if they can’t give you a specific address, then they’re probably a farm worker or they’re here illegal. It’s just simply you just keep asking.

RAY SUAREZ: Randall’s boss, Sheriff Paul Babeu, has denounced the judge’s injunction of the law, saying it amounted to de facto amnesty of immigrants.

PAUL BABEU, Pinal County, Arizona, sheriff: It’s a national security threat and a public safety issue. And if we looked at it a little bit more from that perspective, I think we can all agree that something significant needs to be done, because we just can’t have the volume of people who are coming in. We can’t have this sense of lawlessness in our county.

RAY SUAREZ: But not all police departments or individual officers want to take on the role of immigration cop. David Salgado has served on the Phoenix police force for 19 years and is one of the individuals who filed a lawsuit against the state. He says the department is already stretched too thin to take on any additional duties.

We spoke to him before the injunction was handed down.

DAVID SALGADO, Phoenix Police Department: We don’t have the time. We don’t have the resources. And I’m telling you right now that — that we, some of us, are going to turn our backs and say, you know what? We don’t have time to be dealing with that. We just don’t have the resources. We don’t have the time to be dealing with a class one misdemeanor, where it’s going to take us off the streets at least two to three to four hours.

RAY SUAREZ: Salgado says the new law threatens to destroy the relationship police have built with the Latino community.

In fact, over the past few weeks, immigrants rights groups have been counseling people on how to respond to police inquiries about legal status. At this meeting Tuesday in the Sunnyslope neighborhood, a lawyer told the audience members that, if they were stopped by police, they should exercise their right to remain silent and not answer questions about their families or where they were born.

He also told them not to be afraid. But housekeeper Alma Mendoza says everyone in her neighborhood is afraid of what the law could mean if the injunction is lifted, even if they are in this country legally, as she is.

ALMA MENDOZA, legal resident: It’s going to be hard for everyone, and for everyone, especially if they’re Hispanic, because the police — we’re afraid that the police are going to stop and pull you over for any reason, even if, you know, you’re not a bad person and you don’t do nothing wrong, but you’re driving to work, you’re driving to the store. So you have a chance that any police are going to stop you and they’re going to ask you about your status.

RAY SUAREZ: And there’s one other concern for Latinos: The judge’s ruling let stand a provision of state law which makes it a crime to pick up day laborers on public property.

That’s disappointing for Manuel Moreno, a legal resident who does landscaping and carpentry work.

MANUEL MORENO, legal resident (through translator): It’s going to be more difficult to get a job. Employers will be afraid to hire us because they will get a ticket. But life continues, and we will have to find a way to survive, to pay phone bills and pay the rent.

RAY SUAREZ: It’s because of challenges like that Latino activists say they will continue their protests and acts of civil disobedience, until it is clear the new Arizona immigration law has been completely and permanently overturned.