A federal judge has blocked one of the most controversial sections of a tough Arizona immigration law, granting a preliminary injunction Wednesday that prevents police from questioning people about their immigration status.
That provision required police to "make a reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of a person stopped, detained or arrested" if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person is in the United States illegally.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton's ruling, in response to a motion filed by the federal government, came with scant hours to go before the law goes into effect.
She also blocked provisions of the law making it a crime to fail to apply for or carry alien registration papers or "for an unauthorized alien to solicit, apply for, or perform work," and a provision "authorizing the warrantless arrest of a person" if there is reason to believe that person might be subject to deportation.
"We believe the court ruled correctly when it prevented key provisions of SB1070 from taking effect. While we understand the frustration of Arizonans with the broken immigration system, a patchwork of state and local policies would seriously disrupt federal immigration enforcement and would ultimately be counterproductive," the Department of Justice said in a statement. "States can and do play a role in cooperating with the federal government in its enforcement of the immigration laws, but they must do so within our constitutional framework.
"This administration takes its responsibility to secure our borders seriously and has dedicated unprecedented resources to that effort. We will continue to work toward smarter and more effective enforcement of our laws while pressing for a comprehensive approach that provides true security and strengthens accountability and responsibility in our immigration system at the national level."
Seven lawsuits are seeking to block implementation of the law, signed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in April. It is to go into effect Thursday.
The law also targets those who hire illegal immigrant laborers or knowingly transport them.
Opponents say the law will lead to racial profiling, which is illegal.
Supporters point out that the law prohibits racial profiling and people cannot be stopped and asked for proof of legal residence based solely on their looks.