Challenging SB1070 in Court


Several days ago, on June 4, a class action lawsuit was filed in Arizona challenging the draconian SB1070 that, according to one lawyer participating in a webinar: SB 1070The Arizona Law and Report on Civil Rights Challenges,  it creates a near “police state” in Arizona, particularly for people of color, regardless of immigration status.

As regrettable as the enactment of SB1070 has been, it has inspired copycat proposals in 17 other states, including, Utah, Rhode Island and Georgia.  All the more reason SB1070 must be stopped in Arizona.

The class action suit, Friendly House et al v Whiting, challenges the constitutionality of SB12070, claiming it violates the Supremacy Clause, Due Process, Equal Protection, and the First Amendment.

The challenge will live or die over the court’s interpretation of the Supremacy Clause and immigration regulation.  The Supremacy Clause says that federal law preempts state law.  Since regulating immigration is dominated by the federal governemnt; the claim is that SB 1070 runs afoul of federal preemption of state law, and thus the constituion.

Next, the suit claims SB 1070 violates the Equal Protection Clause by impermissibly discriminating against noncitizens, particularly with race based classifications.  Due process violations impede the rights of persons to be free from unlawful questioning, arrest and detention. SB1070 also violates first amendment rights of day laborers in Arizona by preventing them from soliciting work.

The lawsuit also makes a right to travel claim that argues the law will discriminate against interstate travelers who are stopped by police for a broken taillight or other trivial matters and then be subject to extended questioning simply because of one’s drivers license.  The idea here deals with the fact that different states deal with different levels of scruitny when issuing a license. Thus, “reasonable suspicion” could be a consequence of your drivers license.

Several things are impressive about this litigation.  First is the diversity of individual litigants that goes well beyond members of the undocumented community to include lawful residents and citizens. Next is the wide array of organizational plaintiffs including friendly house– a huge direct service provider in Arizona; labor unions such as SEIU; and such groups as the ACLU; NDLON;  MALDEF and the NAACP.

It is the hope of lawyers representing these plaintiffs that the representativeness of the litigants will show widespread harm should SB1070 be implemented, scheduled July 31. For that reason lawyers have filed for a preliminary injunction that would prevent Arizona from implementing SB1070 pending the litigation.

It is important for folks to follow this litigation and to use it on the local level to organize against the spread of SB1070

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