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November 2, 2010 > Local governments support injunction against anti-immigrant law

Local governments support injunction against anti-immigrant law

Submitted By Gwendolyn Mitchell and Laurel Anderson

Joined by the United States Conference of Mayors and cities and counties from around the nation, the County of Santa Clara, California filed an amicus curiae brief on September 30, 2010, with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals urging the court to uphold an injunction against the most controversial provisions of the State of Arizona's anti-immigrant law, SB 1070.

The brief was filed in "United States v. Arizona" in support of the US Department of Justice, which brought the lawsuit to stop Arizona from intruding into federal immigration matters. On July 28, a federal judge blocked certain portions of the law from taking effect. The State of Arizona and Arizona Governor Janice Brewer appealed that decision.

"Arizona's law is a direct assault on people's civil rights and allowing it to go into effect would increase the real fears of racial profiling in communities nationwide," said Santa Clara County Supervisor George Shirakawa. "We've worked hard in our communities to untangle local police and sheriffs from federal immigration enforcement because public safety depends on all residents knowing they can call local officials for help when they need it. Arizona's law tries to take over the federal government's job and force local police and sheriffs away from their number one priority: protecting our communities."

Santa Clara County is joined by the counties of Monterey and San Mateo and the cities of Baltimore, Berkeley, Minneapolis, New Haven, New York, Palo Alto, Portland (OR), Saint Paul, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and Salt Lake City (UT). Also joining the brief is the US Conference of Mayors, the official organization of US cities with populations of 30,000 or more, of which there are approximately 1,200.

In their brief, the local governments argue the parts of the law under consideration are unconstitutional, impractical, costly and deeply damaging to the relationships of trust law enforcement agencies have built with immigrant communities and the public at large.

"The provisions of SB 1070 that were enjoined by the district court suggest, wrongly, that enforcement of federal civil immigration law is the responsibility of local government officials and that basic constitutional principles do not apply when those officials are enforcing immigration law," the local governments argue in their brief. "If these provisions were allowed to go into effect, that message would reverberate not just in Arizona but in every state across the country, making immigrants - whether they are naturalized citizens, lawful permanent residents, visa holders or undocumented individuals - deeply distrustful of local governments and law enforcement officials."

The local governments filing the brief provide essential services to local residents, including maintaining safe communities through the funding, operation and oversight of local law enforcement agencies. They argue that Arizona's law "imposes vague and unworkable requirements" on local law enforcement officers and that it essentially requires officers to engage in racial profiling and other unconstitutional conduct, leading to serious repercussions for law enforcement relationships with people of color and long-term negative effects on the ability of local governments to protect their residents' safety.

In June, Santa Clara County and many of the other local governments filed a similar brief in front of the federal judge who issued the injunction. As Santa Clara County Counsel Miguel Marquez explained, local governments across the country were relieved when the injunction was issued but must continue to speak out about their concerns regarding laws like SB 1070.

"By filing a brief as a friend of the court, we offer an important perspective on how local governments both inside and outside of Arizona are harmed by a law like SB 1070, which breeds fear and mistrust of government in immigrant communities and communities of color all across the country," said Marquez. "The Arizona legislature's decision to make up its own immigration laws because it doesn't like the federal government's approach is completely inconsistent with the US Constitution. The lower court's decision protects the ability of the federal government to enforce federal law, while local governments focus on ensuring public safety."

Lawyers for Arizona and the federal government will argue the case before a three-judge panel in San Francisco on November 1. The parts of SB 1070 requiring Arizona police officers to question individuals' immigration status, to ask for papers and to report suspected undocumented immigrants will remain on hold unless the Ninth Circuit overturns the District Court's injunction.

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