Court Blocks Major Provisions of Arizona's Anti-Immigrant Law

Federal judge blocks most egregious provisions of law in ruling in DOJ case that parallels MALDEF and civil rights coalition suit

July 28, 2010

PHOENIX, AZ – A federal court in Phoenix today blocks major provisions of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, known as SB 1070, pending a final court ruling on its constitutionality. This ruling ensures that, until a final order is issued by the court, Arizona will be unable to establish its new state immigration scheme that potentially penalizes anyone who does not carry proof of status, including non-citizens who do not carry registration documents, such as those immigrants in transitional status whom the federal government allows to live in the U.S. The federal court issued its order in a case filed by the United States government raising claims parallel to those raised in the suit filed earlier by MALDEF and a coalition of civil rights groups.

The law, scheduled to go into effect on July 29, would have required police to demand "papers" from people they stop who they suspect are "unlawfully present" in the U.S. and set up a state system to arrest and punish those whom Arizona determines are not carrying proper immigration documents. MALDEF and a coalition of civil rights groups filed a lawsuit challenging the discriminatory measure and asked the court to temporarily block the law while the case is litigated.

The blocked sections under the law include the following provisions:

  • The requirement that police officers investigate the immigration status of all individuals during any stop, detention or arrest if the officers suspects that the individuals are in the country unlawfully;
  • The requirement that police officers verify the immigration status of all individuals who are arrested before they can be released;
  • The new state scheme imposing new criminal penalties for non-citizens whom Arizona determines are not carrying proper immigration documents, even when the federal government allows those individuals to remain in the U.S.;
  • The provision creating a state crime for unauthorized immigrants to solicit or apply for work; and
  • The provision for the warrantless arrest of individuals when state or local police officers decide those individuals are “removable” from the U.S.

The court did not strike down the provision that forbids local police agencies from adopting policies that limit or restrict enforcement of federal immigration laws, or the provision that permits Arizona residents to sue government agencies for adopting a policy restricting enforcement of immigration law. The court also left in place certain provisions related to day laborers, citing a recent Ninth Circuit decision in which en banc review is being sought.

The civil rights coalition includes MALDEF, the ACLU, National Immigration Law Center (NILC), Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) – a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, ACLU of Arizona, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP is acting as co-counsel in the case.

The coalition’s lawsuit, filed on May 17, challenges SB 1070 on the grounds that it invites the racial profiling of people of color, violates the Constitution and interferes with federal law. According to the coalition, the law would subject massive numbers of people – both citizens and non-citizens – to improper investigations, arrest and punishment. The United States lawsuit, in which today's order was issued, was filed on July 6.

The following quotes can be attributed to members of the coalition, as listed below.

Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel: "Tomorrow promises to be a much brighter day in Arizona than anyone thought it would be just 24 hours ago. Of course, even today's great victory must be tempered by the knowledge that any provision that remains in place is ripe for misuse. The hard work to vindicate fully our federal constitutional values must continue."

Nina Perales, MALDEF Southwest Regional Counsel: "Today's ruling guts the unconstitutional immigration scheme that Arizona wanted to establish. The judge's decision further shows that SB 1070 is an unconstitutional attempt by the State to take over the federal immigration system within Arizona's borders. States around the nation should take heed that any similar efforts will not succeed."

Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of NDLON: “We will not rest until day laborers have their full rights respected to solicit work on public streets. We are ready to continue the battle. Poor people have never been given anything for free and we plan to fight this to the bitter end.”

Omar Jadwat, staff attorney with of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project: "This is a major step towards overturning Arizona’s law that if allowed to go into effect would turn Latinos and other people who appear ‘foreign’ into criminal suspects and create an un-American 'show me your papers' regime. States and other local jurisdictions cannot be allowed to enact local measures that interfere with federal policies and priorities and invite racial profiling. We are confident that this unconstitutional and discriminatory law that endangers public safety will ultimately be struck down in its entirety.”

Linton Joaquin, General Counsel of NILC: “With today’s ruling, Judge Bolton indicated that the plaintiffs are likely to prevail in their constitutional challenge to SB 1070. SB 1070 is a dangerous enactment that threatens the fundamental rights of countless Arizonans and visitors. Other states following in Arizona’s misguided footsteps should consider themselves forewarned: attempts to trample on the rights of communities of color in this country must not be permitted. We look forward to showing, through our lawsuit, that this pernicious law should be taken off Arizona’s books permanently.”

Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arizona: “This is a first step towards a victory for civil liberties in Arizona. We eagerly anticipate proving to the court that this reactionary racial profiling law violates the Constitution so we can begin the real work of crafting practical solutions that address our nation’s immigration concerns rather than violate fundamental American values.”

Organizations and attorneys on the case, Friendly House et al. v. Whiting et al., include:

  • ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project: Guttentag, Omar Jadwat, Cecillia Wang, Tanaz Moghadam and Harini P. Raghupathi;
  • MALDEF: Thomas A. Saenz, Nina Perales, Cynthia Valenzuela Dixon, Victor Viramontes, Gladys Limón, Nicholás Espiritu and Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal;
  • NILC: Joaquin, Karen Tumlin, Nora A. Preciado, Melissa S. Keaney, Vivek Mittal and Ghazal Tajmiri;
  • ACLU Foundation of Arizona: Dan Pochoda and Annie Lai;
  • APALC: Julie Su, Ronald Lee, Yungsuhn Park, Connie Choi and Carmina Ocampo
  • NDLON: Chris Newman;
  • NAACP: Laura Blackburne;
  • Munger Tolles & Olson LLP: Bradley S. Phillips, Paul J. Watford, Joseph J. Ybarra, Susan T. Boyd, Yuval Miller, Elisabeth J. Neubauer and Benjamin Maro;
  • Roush, McCracken, Guerrero, Miller & Ortega: Daniel R. Ortega, Jr.

The motion for a preliminary injunction can be found at:

More information about MALDEF’s efforts to block the Arizona law can be found at:

For all media inquiries, please contact Laura Rodriguez.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund