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Arizona's Immigration Enforcement Law: Florida's Stances on Both Sides of SB 1070

This week's issue includes a four-story special report from Village Voice Media about SB 1070, the Arizona immigration law that both casts criminal suspicion on anyone who looks Latino and transforms local law enforcement officers into immigration investigators. It's featured nationally because it is of national concern -- the U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule soon on whether the policies unlawfully step on federal toes, and Arizona isn't the only state looking to ask brown people for their papers.

Florida is one of 16 states that filed a joint amicus brief with the court supporting SB 1070 -- state Attorney General Pam Bondi joined the Michigan-led coalition of attorneys general in signing onto the brief, which says that "laws aimed at parallel enforcement of the federal scheme" are legit. It argues that the states have an "inherent right" to both enforce federal law and regulate employment. (If you're curious, the brief is included below.)

But there are Floridians on the other side of the issue too -- Gainesville, Hallandale Beach, and Miami Beach are three of more than three dozen cities including Boston; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; and Dallas that have signed onto a brief arguing against the bill (PDF). It argues that the provisions of SB 1070 "impermissibly usurp scarce local resources that should be devoted to public safety," according to the National Immigration Law Center, and that the methods proscribed for verifying immigration status "impose vague and unworkable requirements that effectively compel local law enforcement officials to violate the Constitution."

A separate brief (PDF) from dozens of members of Congress claims the bill affords state and local officials enforcement abilities not allocated by the federal government. It includes an endorsement from South Florida Democratic Reps. Ted Deutsch and Frederica Wilson.

Yet another amicus brief (PDF) was endorsed by former Florida Attorney General (and South Florida state Senate candidate) Bob Butterworth. The National Immigration Law Center characterizes that brief as stating that the bill "impermissibly interferes with local law enforcement by damaging police and prosecutors' ability to effectively fight crime and undercutting their ability to establish enforcement priorities for their own jurisdictions."

Whether these "friend of the court" briefs have any sway in the decision is yet to be seen, but the fight against SB 1070 most certainly doesn't end with the Supreme Court decision -- numerous lawsuits were put on hold once enforcement of the law was blocked by injunction, lawsuits that will go forward if the law takes effect.

"It is just the beginning. We filed our lawsuit challenging 1070 on many constitutional grounds," said the Arizona ACLU's Dan Pochoda, to the Arizona Republic. "Essentially, we have a lawsuit that was always viable and well-lawyered. If the Supreme Court rules that that 1070 can go into effect, we will start with our suit, getting a schedule on discovery for all of our issues, along with motions, if any, for further preliminary injunction issues, as well as possible challenges of the law based on other issues."

He said the group is trying to get the word out that the Supreme Court ruling is not the be-all, end-all decision on state-level immigration enforcement.

"We've been waiting for our turn at making these arguments," Pochoda told me. "The Supreme Court will decide if that process can go forward."

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Rich Abdill

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