On August 16, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton scheduled a hearing to decide the fate of S.B. 1070, the controversial Arizona immigration law recently ruled on by the U.S. Supreme Court. On August 8, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit formally returned the controversial case of the only S.B. 1070 provision upheld by the highest court in the nation. In its high-profile Arizona v. United States decision, the Supreme Court held that lower courts erred in blocking enforcement of the S.B. 1070 provision on federalism grounds. The provision requires law enforcement to check the immigration status of individuals who are stopped, detained or arrested for legitimate reasons and whom police suspect of being undocumented.
Amid the ongoing debate over the “mandatory check provision,”or Section 2(b) of S.B. 1070, Judge Bolton is tasked with deciding whether the injunction currently blocking the provision’s enforcement should stand. Immigrants’ rights and civil liberties groups have filed a separate lawsuit challenging the provision on the grounds that it will lead to unconstitutional detention and racial profiling, while lawyers for Governor Jan Brewer have asked the judge to permit the law to take effect.
Despite a rare 8-0 vote to uphold the mandatory check provision, several Supreme Court justices expressed concerns about the possibility of racial profiling and unconstitutional detention practices in oral arguments and opinions. For its part, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has noted that it will closely monitor Arizona’s enforcement of the law if the injunction is lifted and has set up a hotline to receive complaints about its implementation.
Predictably, the ongoing debate over Arizona’s lightning rod approach to illegal immigration has also drawn politics into the fray. The increasing polarization of federal, state and local races along ideological lines over issues such as immigration invariably impacts key voting constituencies, including the skyrocketing number of eligible Latino voters.