Arizona appeals judge's ruling on immigration law

Arizona asked an appeals court Thursday to lift a judge's order blocking most of the state's immigration law as the city of Phoenix filled with protesters, including dozens who were arrested for confronting officers in riot gear. (July 29)
By Jerry Markon and Robert Barnes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 30, 2010

Hundreds of opponents of Arizona's new immigration law swarmed the streets of downtown Phoenix Thursday, confronting police in riot gear as the state's governor filed an urgent appeal of a judge's ruling that prevented key portions of the law from taking effect.

(Read the Judge's ruling)

Condemning what they called the "terrorizing" of Hispanics, protesters blockaded a jail and marched to the offices of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, known for his aggressive stance on illegal immigrants. The sheriff vowed a "crime sweep" targeting illegal immigrants but later postponed the raids. At least 17 protesters were arrested.

(Photos: As immigration law looms, local tensions mount)

With the case's future uncertain, the demonstrations illustrated that tensions over the state's immigration crackdown may only have been heightened by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton's ruling Wednesday in the Obama administration's lawsuit against Arizona. Bolton temporarily blocked the law's most controversial sections, but protesters objected to other provisions that she allowed to take effect on Thursday.

(Immigrant rights groups change focus away from reform)

A day after Bolton's decision riveted attention on illegal immigration, it was clear that the increasingly divisive debate is spreading nationwide.

Similar bills

Nearly 20 states have introduced bills similar to the Arizona law, and nine states with Republican attorneys general are planning to file appellate briefs supporting Arizona. Immigration is a key theme in this fall's midterm elections; at the same time conservative candidates are attacking what they say is the Obama administration's aggressive expansion of government.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), whose fierce criticism of the federal lawsuit has helped her popularity at home, on Thursday appealed Bolton's ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Urging the court to quickly hear the case, she vowed that she "will not back down." The Justice Department, whose lawsuit against Arizona was a rare federal challenge of a state law, declined to comment.

If the political reactions to Bolton's decision were predictable, the legal path forward was not. The 9th Circuit has a liberal reputation, and court officials said the case will be heard by a "motions panel" designed for urgent appeals. The panel this month consists of three judges who, like Bolton, were appointed by Democratic presidents.

But if the panel's decision is appealed to the full 9th Circuit, 10 of the 11 judges will be chosen by a random computerized draw. The 11th jurist will be Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, a Republican appointee.

Although many legal experts believe the case is ultimately headed to the Supreme Court, it is unclear at what point in the process that might happen. If the 9th Circuit upholds Bolton's preliminary injunction, experts said it is unlikely the high court would disturb such a ruling until the case over the law is decided.

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