If Arizona Law Stands, Opponents Will Go Back to Court

If the Supreme Court allows any part of Arizona's controversial immigration law to stand, at least one immigrant-rights group says it will go back to court and ask a judge to block it again.

During a hearing Wednesday on the constitutionality of the law, known as SB 1070, justices seemed unsympathetic to the Department of Justice's claim that Arizona's police officers would impinge on federal jurisdiction if they check the immigration status of those they pull over.

Some of the justices' comments during the hearing have led to speculation that the court may allow the law to stand, at least in part.

If that happens, the National Immigration Law Center would ask the U.S. District Court to revisit a lawsuit they filed in 2010 and block the law again, said Karen Tumlin, the center's managing attorney.

"We will move quickly and aggressively to enjoin this law," she said.

NILC and other advocacy groups filed suit against Arizona county attorneys and sheriffs on behalf of more than a dozen residents, arguing that SB 1070 unconstitutionally promotes unlawful searches and seizures and is improperly motivated by racial animus, Tumlin said.

The case has largely been in limbo since October 2010, when U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton found NILC's request that the law be blocked moot because she had recently enjoined parts of the law in the case between Arizona and the Department of Justice, now being heard before the Supreme Court.

In 2010, the League of United Latin American Citizens and several individuals filed a third lawsuit against Arizona in District Court. Their case, like that of the Justice Department, focuses on whether states were able to enforce immigration laws. That case will continue regardless of what the Supreme Court rules, said Luis Vera, LULAC's general counsel.

"We're fighting it and we'll continue to fight it," he said.

Immigrant-rights groups aren't the only ones who are making plans for life after the Supreme Court ruling.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that opposes illegal immigration and advocates for a reduction in the number of legal immigrants allowed to come to the country, said it will push other states to pass legislation similar to SB 1070.

Other states were waiting to see what the Supreme Court would decide on SB 1070 before going forward with their own legislation, said group spokesman Ira Mehlman. After the Supreme Court rules, "it will be clear what states can and cannot do," Mehlman said. "You can do A, B, C, and D, but you can't do E. So do A, B, C, and D."