A Court Challenge to Arizona's Immigration Law

Arizona, it appears, will have to defend its new immigration-enforcement law in federal court.

A coalition of interest groups, including the ACLU, has launched a legal challenge to Arizona's new immigration law, arguing that it both invites racial profiling and is unconstitutional.

Groups involved in the case, Friendly House et al. vs. Whiting et al., include the Arizona-based group Friendly House, the NAACP, the Mexican American Legal Defence & Education Fund (MALDEF), the Service Employees International Union, SEIU Local 5, United Food and Commercial Workers International, Arizona South Asians for Safe Families, Southside Presbyterian Church, Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Asian Chamber of Commerce of Arizona, Border Action Network, Tonatierra Community Development Institute, the Muslim American Society, the Japanese American Citizens League, Valle del Sol, Inc., Coalicíon De Derechos Humanos, and individuals.

The defendants named are all county attorneys and sheriffs in Arizona.

You can read the legal complaint here. Arizona's actual law--the latest version, SB1070 as amended by HB2162, which Gov. Jan Brewer signed after originally signing the bill--is online here at Brewer's government website.

The Friendly House complaint makes several charges.

One is that immigration is the job of the federal government, and the federal government alone. SB1070 violates the Constitution's Supremacy Clause, the lawyers argue, by setting up a state-level immigration-law and enforcement regime, where immigration is a federal matter. Citizenship verification entails adherence to a complex set of federal statutes, the plaintiffs argue, and this is the federal government's responsibility, not that of state law enforcers. So when an AZ law enforcer, for instance, is empowered to detain people for the purpose of verifying citizenship, that too is unconstitutional, the complaint argues.

The complaint also states that SB1070 encourages racial profiling and warrantless seizures that violate probable cause under the Fourth Amendment, because law enforcers are compelled to make decisions and take actions based on an "unworkable" standard of "reasonable suspicion." the lawyers write: "SB 1070 as amended compels police officers to make immigration status determinations and to detain individuals based on a 'reasonable suspicion' standard that is unworkable and cannot be applied by state and local officers; that requires impermissible reliance on race, national origin, and language; and that impermissibly burdens and interferes with the rights of lawful permanent resident immigrants and citizens in the State
of Arizona." In other words, racial profiling is substituted for constitutional guarantees of probable cause, according to the complaint.

And SB1070 limits free speech, the lawyers argue. Because law enforcers are compelled to make determinations based on an "unworkable" standard of suspicion, they must resort to decisions based on a person's speech and expression, the complaint states. This has a chilling effect on speech and expression. Here's the example used in the complaint:
For example, Plaintiff John Doe #1 is a resident of Phoenix, Arizona, and a legal permanent resident. His English proficiency is extremely limited and he speaks English with a noticeable accent. He fears that he will be targeted pursuant to SB 1070

The case seeks injunctive relief--i.e. none of the individual plaintiffs, or the groups listed as plaintiffs, are claiming they have already been wronged by AZ law enforcers, but they want the law stricken because they feel they probably will be wronged under it. It was filed in U.S. district court in Arizona.