In a victory for the federal government and civil rights advocates, District Court Judge Susan Bolton put a temporary hold on Arizona’s harsh immigration law Wednesday, forbidding the most controversial parts of it from taking effect Thursday as scheduled. Her temporary injunction invalidates the portions of the law, among others, that required police officers to check the immigration status of people they stop and that required immigrants to carry their papers at all times.
The ruling is not the last word on SB 1070; the federal suit against the state will continue. But in granting the injunction — and making it clear that the federal government is likely to prevail at trial — the judge has powerfully bolstered the argument that a state cannot preempt federal authority on the matter of immigration.
Not only are we pleased with the ruling, but we hope it throws cold water on similar proposals percolating in legislatures across the country.
Even though the court did not side with Arizona, the state’s powers are not diminished. Its local law enforcement agencies already lead the nation in turning over illegal immigrants to federal authorities, and that will probably continue. Maricopa County alone, where Sheriff Joe Arpaio is under federal investigation for civil rights violations, has assisted in the deportation of 26,000 illegal immigrants since 2007 — about one-quarter of the total deportations nationally during that period. (Los Angeles County is a distant second with about 13,800.) Arizona still has the tools it needs to keep its version of the peace. But in the end, neither Arizona nor any other state will be able to arrest its way out of a problem that requires concerted, comprehensive congressional action. That’s why the appropriate response to the injunction is for the frustrated public — in and outside of Arizona — to hold the federal government to its word. It has asserted its authority on the subject, and now it should be pressed to use it.