Federal judge strikes down Arizona immigration law

A Border Patrol agent drives along the fence separating Mexico from the Arizona town of Naco. Arizona's efforts to pass tough immigrations laws have repeatedly run into trouble in federal courts.
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

A federal judge has struck down a 2005 Arizona law that made smuggling immigrants a state crime, saying it conflicted with federal laws governing immigration.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton said in her Friday ruling that the state law was “preempted” by the U.S. government’s authority to enforce immigration laws, dealing another legal blow to Arizona’s controversial efforts to give local and state law enforcement more muscle to combat illegal immigration.

The smuggling law, passed in 2005, was designed to prosecute those trafficking people into the country. The law was modified by the controversial SB 1070, which expanded the ability of local authorities to stop people suspected of being in the country illegally.


In her ruling, Bolton said the state law “imposes additional and different state penalties than federal law; it divests federal authorities of the exclusive power to prosecute these specific smuggling crimes; and criminalizes conduct not covered by (federal law) because it does not contain a safe harbor exception for religious activities like the federal statute does.”

The ruling builds on an earlier decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals striking down an Arizona law that made it a crime to harbor, transport or conceal an immigrant in the country illegally, said Omar Jadwat, an attorney for the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.

“Yet another Arizona anti-immigrant law has now been struck down,” Jadwat said in a statement Saturday. “Since we prevailed in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals against Arizona’s so-called ‘harboring’ law it has been clear that this smuggling provision’s days were numbered, and we are glad that the district court properly ruled it unconstitutional.”

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s office did not respond to calls or emails Saturday.

Friday’s ruling is the latest to stem from the Justice Department’s challenge to SB 1070, which Brewer signed into law in 2010. Judge Bolton had struck key portions of the law, which would have allowed Arizona authorities to arrest immigrants in the country illegally for looking for work or not carrying proper documentation.

A ruling by U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 also rejected provisions of SB 1070 but allowed Arizona to enforce a part of the law that directs police to check the immigration status of people they suspect are in the country illegally.

The most recent black eye for Arizona over immigration had been in 2013, when a federal judge found that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, one of the most vocal proponents of Arizona’s tough stance on immigration, had violated the constitutional rights of Latinos during traffic stops and immigration raids.


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