TUCSON -- Arizona’s sweeping anti-illegal-immigration law suffered another blow Monday when the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with day laborers looking for work in the state.
A three-judge appellate panel unanimously upheld a lower court injunction that prevents the state from enforcing a part of SB 1070 that would prohibit motorists from stopping traffic to solicit day laborers.
Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, considered the decision a disappointment, her spokesman said in a prepared statement. “This provision offered one more tool for law enforcement to use in combating crime in our neighborhoods as a result of illegal immigration,” said the spokesman, Matthew Benson.
Civil and immigrant rights activists praised the court’s decision, saying the provision attacked day laborers’ 1st Amendment rights.
The court reaffirmed "that the freedom to seek work is constitutionally protected,” the American Civil Liberties Union said.
In Phoenix, Betty Guardado, secretary-treasurer of organized labor group Unite Here Local 631, said the provision had simply targeted “working people, Latinos and immigrants.”
“Arizona's elected leaders should stop wasting the public's time, money and patience trying to pass and enforce unfair laws,” Guardado said in a statement.
In the court’s opinion, Circuit Judge Raymond C. Fisher wrote that Arizona had singled out day labor solicitation for harsh penalty while leaving alone other types of solicitation that block traffic.
“Arizona defends this content-based distinction by invoking the ‘unique’ danger posed by labor solicitation. That justification is only minimally supported by the record and, tellingly, SB 1070’s introduction says nothing about traffic safety,” Fisher wrote for the court. “Rather, it emphasizes that its purpose is to encourage self-deportation by stripping undocumented immigrants of their livelihood.”
The provision restricts more protected speech than is necessary, violating the 1st Amendment, the court concluded.
Last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key provisions of SB 1070 but allowed the most controversial portion to take effect: Arizona can compel its law enforcement officials in most circumstances to check the status of someone they stop for lawful reasons if they suspect the person is in the country illegally.
It’s unclear whether Brewer will appeal the 9th Circuit's ruling.
“The governor will be conferring with her legal counsel regarding the state’s next steps in this case,” Benson said.