A federal judge on Friday, prescription weighing in a clash between the federal government and a state over immigration policy, ask blocked the most controversial parts of Arizona’s immigration enforcement law from going into effect.
In a ruling on a law that has rocked politics coast to coast and thrown a spotlight on a border state’s fierce debate over immigration, troche Judge Susan Bolton of Federal District Court here said that some aspects of the law can go into effect as scheduled on Thursday.
But Judge Bolton took aim at the parts of the law that have generated the most controversy, issuing a preliminary injunction against sections that called for police officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws and that required immigrants to carry their papers at all times.
Judge Bolton put those sections on hold while she continued to hear the larger issues in the challenges to the law.
“Preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely pre-empted by federal law to be enforced,” she said.
“There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens,” she wrote. “By enforcing this statute, Arizona would impose a ‘distinct, unusual and extraordinary’ burden on legal resident aliens that only the federal government has the authority to impose.”
The judge’s decision, which came as demonstrators on both sides of the law gathered here, and after three hearings in the last two weeks in which the judge peppered lawyers on both sides with skeptical questions, seemed unlikely to quell the debate.
“I am disappointed by Judge Susan Bolton’s ruling,” Gov. Jan Brewer said in a statement. “This fight is far from over. In fact, it is just the beginning, and at the end of what is certain to be a long legal struggle, Arizona will prevail in its right to protect our citizens.
“I have consulted with my legal counsel about our next steps. We will take a close look at every single element Judge Bolton removed from the law, and we will soon file an expedited appeal at the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.”
Judge Bolton’s ruling seemed destined to do fuel even more rhetoric on the campaign trail, with Arizona’s attorney general, Terry Goddard, who opposes the law and is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, quick to praise the ruling and condemn Gov. Brewer, a Republican, for signing it.
“Rather than providing the leadership Arizona needs to solve the immigration problem, Jan Brewer signed a bill she could not defend in court which has led to boycotts, jeopardized our tourism industry and polarized our state,” Mr. Goddard said.
Ms. Brewer was traveling in Tucson and was preparing a comment of her own.
The ruling came four days before 1,200 National Guard troops were scheduled to report to the Southwest border to assist federal and local law enforcement agencies there, part of the Obama administration’s response to growing anxiety over the border and immigration that has fed support for the law.