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Federal appeals court upholds block to a state immigration law

A federal appellate panel has upheld a lower court ruling barring provisions of a state immigration law from being enforced. States and individuals all across the country, including in Florida are watching as the legal wrangling continues. Many states are considering similar immigration proposals. A three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which does not cover Florida, has upheld the lower court ruling barring Arizona from enforcing provisions of its immigration law.

A federal judge had previously blocked enforcement of parts of the immigration law that, among other things, requires police to check the immigration status of individuals the police have stopped for questioning. The law requires state and local police to try to determine immigration status of individuals, and allows for police to detain an individual if police are unable to determine the person's status. A detention could possibly lead to a federal deportation/removal hearing in an immigration court.

The lower court also blocked a provision in the law from taking effect that makes it a state crime for illegal immigrants to solicit or perform work in the state. In upholding the lower court's order the appellate panel essentially ruled that federal immigration law preempts the state from enacted such a law.

Arizona sought to have the lower court's July 28 preliminary order invalidated. The state had the backing of 11 other states, including Florida. The panel did not make a ruling on the merits of the constitutional questions. The narrow issue before the panel was whether the lower court erred in blocking enforcement of the law while the constitutional questions are being challenged in court.

The appellate panel says "[b]y imposing mandatory obligations on state and local officers, Arizona interferes with the federal government's authority to implement its priorities and strategies in law enforcement, turning Arizona officers into state directed" federal agents. A separate, concurring opinion says "foreign policy is not and cannot be determined by the several states."

Arizona has not indicated whether it will appeal the ruling to the full panel of judges in the 9th Circuit, make a direct appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in the matter or return to the lower court and try the case on the merits.

Source: Bloomberg, "Arizona Law Requiring Immigration Checks by Police Blocked by Appeal Panel," Pam MacLean ad Joel Rosenblatt 11 Apr 2011

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