Associated Press, Published July 29 2010
UPDATED: Protests go on despite ruling on Arizona immigration law
Television images show a large group of demonstrators, with another line of about a dozen protesters well in front of them facing a line of police officers dressed in riot gear. The protesters were holding their hands in the air, and officers were taking them into custody.
They were handcuffed, led off and put into police vans. An Associated Press reporter counted at least eight people in handcuffs.
The crowd was chanting "racists go home" as the arrests were being made.
Demonstrators had promised nonviolent civil disobedience at the rally, which was held despite a federal judge's last-minute decision to block the most controversial parts of the measure.
Arizona is preparing to ask an appeals court to lift a judge's ruling that put most of the state's immigration law on hold in a key first-round victory for the federal government in a fight that may go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The law was supposed to take effect today, and despite the delay, hundreds of protesters marched from the state Capitol at dawn, then gathered in front of the federal courthouse where U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton issued her ruling on Wednesday.
Three people — including former state Sen. Alfredo Gutierrez — were arrested at the courthouse, where police in riot gear were ready in case the protest got out of hand. It was not immediately clear why the people were detained.
Chanting "Sheriff Joe, we are here, we will not live in fear," marchers then headed to the office of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has made a crackdown on illegal immigration one of his signature issues. Among the crowd was a drummer wearing a papier-mache Sheriff Joe head and dressed in prison garb. A woman was arrested outside the sheriff's office.
Arpaio said if protesters were disruptive they'd be arrested, and he vowed to go ahead with a crime sweep targeting illegal immigrants.
"My deputies will arrest them and put them in pink underwear," Arpaio said, referring to one of his odd methods of punishment for prisoners. "Count on it."
Gov. Jan Brewer called Bolton's Wednesday's decision "a bump in the road" and vowed to appeal.
Arizona is the nation's epicenter of illegal immigration, with more than 400,000 undocumented residents. The state's border with Mexico is awash with smugglers and drugs that funnel narcotics and immigrants throughout the U.S., and the influx of illegal migrants drains vast sums of money from hospitals, education and other services.
The ruling was anxiously awaited in the U.S. and beyond. About 100 protesters in Mexico City who had gathered at the U.S. Embassy broke into applause when they learned of the ruling via a laptop computer. Mariana Rivera, a 36-year-old from Zacatecas, Mexico, who is living in Phoenix on a work permit, said she heard about the ruling on a Spanish-language news program.
"I was waiting to hear because we're all very worried about everything that's happening," said Rivera, who phoned friends and family with the news. "Even those with papers, we don't go out at night at certain times there's so much fear (of police). You can't just sit back and relax."
In New York City, about 300 immigrant advocates gathered near the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan.
New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams, a first-generation Caribbean-American, told the crowd: "We won a slight battle in Arizona, we've got to continue with the war."
Paul Senseman, a spokesman for Brewer, said Arizona would ask the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco later Thursday to lift Bolton's preliminary injunction and to expedite its consideration of the state's appeal.
Bolton indicated the government has a good chance at succeeding in its argument that federal immigration law trumps state law. But the key sponsor of Arizona's law, Republican Rep. Russell Pearce, said the judge was wrong and predicted the state would ultimately win the case.
In her temporary injunction, Bolton delayed the most contentious provisions of the law, including a section that required officers to check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws. She also barred enforcement of parts requiring immigrants to carry their papers and banned illegal immigrants from soliciting employment in public places — a move aimed at day laborers that congregate in large numbers in parking lots across Arizona. The judge also blocked officers from making warrantless arrests of suspected illegal immigrants.
"Requiring Arizona law enforcement officials and agencies to determine the immigration status of every person who is arrested burdens lawfully present aliens because their liberty will be restricted while their status is checked," said Bolton, a Clinton administration appointee who was assigned the seven lawsuits filed against Arizona over the law.
Other provisions that were less contentious were allowed to take effect Thursday, including a section that bars cities in Arizona from disregarding federal immigration laws.
Kris Kobach, the University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor who helped write the law and train Arizona police officers in immigration law, conceded the ruling weakens the force of Arizona's efforts to crack down on illegal immigrants. He said it will likely be a year before a federal appeals court decides the case.
"It's a temporary setback," Kobach said. "The bottom line is that every lawyer in Judge Bolton's court knows this is just the first pitch in a very long baseball game."
Opponents of the law said the ruling sends a strong message to other states hoping to replicate the law. Lawmakers or candidates in as many as 18 states say they want to push similar measures when their legislative sessions start up again in 2011.
"Surely it's going to make states pause and consider how they're drafting legislation and how it fits in a constitutional framework," Dennis Burke, the U.S. attorney for Arizona, told The Associated Press. "The proponents of this went into court saying there was no question that this was constitutional, and now you have a federal judge who's said, 'Hold on, there's major issues with this bill.'"
But a lawmaker in Utah said the state will likely take up a similar laws anyway.
"The ruling ... should not be a reason for Utah to not move forward," said Utah state Rep. Carl Wimmer, a Republican from Herriman City, who said he plans to co-sponsor a bill similar to Arizona's next year and wasn't surprised it was blocked. "For too long the states have cowered in the corner because of one ruling by one federal judge."
Contributing to this report were Associated Press Writers Michelle Price, Paul Davenport and Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix, and Sara Kugler Frazier in New York.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.