Lawsuit Over Arizona Immigration Law Ends With Settlement

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By Laura D. Francis

Sept. 15 — Six years of litigation over an Arizona immigration law ended with the parties settling the outstanding issues in the case ( Valle del Sol v. Whiting , D. Ariz., No. 2:10-cv-01061, joint motion filed 9/15/16 ).

Spurring multiple lawsuits, the state’s enforcement-style immigration law ( S.B. 1070) became the epicenter of the debate over whether the states could regulate unauthorized immigration in the wake of congressional inaction.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 struck down a chunk of the state law, including provisions making it a crime for undocumented immigrants to work in the state.

The lawsuit that was settled Sept. 15 was filed by advocacy groups and individuals affected by the law. The legal challenge that formed the basis of the Supreme Court case was brought by the Justice Department.

Subject of Appeal

The present case made it up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit twice.

The first time involved provisions of the law making it illegal for day laborers to solicit work from motorists and for motorists to pick up day laborers. The appeals court agreed with the advocacy groups that those provisions violated the First Amendment.

The second—also a victory for the organizations on constitutional grounds—had to do with the provisions making it illegal to harbor and transport undocumented immigrants.

“This settlement reinforces the fact that law enforcement all across the United States must be blind to race or national origin,” United Food and Commercial Workers Secretary-Treasurer Esther López said in a statement. “Hard-working people create great value and their rights and pursuit of a better life must be protected. While this legal battle may be over, our vigilance and our fight for equality and justice for all will never cease.”

The UFCW was a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

“I applaud Attorney General [Mark] Brnovich for his work and leadership on this issue,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) said in a statement provided to Bloomberg BNA Sept. 15. “This is a positive development, and allows us to move forward to a new chapter for our state and all parties involved.”

Court Asked to Dispose of Case

Andre Segura, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 15 that the parties to the lawsuit filed a joint request with the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona to dispose of the rest of the case in a certain manner.

That includes issuing an order that the Arizona attorney general must issue an opinion expressing the constitutional limits on law enforcement’s ability to handle immigration matters—for example, that race can’t be a factor in determining whether to check someone’s immigration status. That opinion will have to be sent to most law enforcement agencies in the state so they have “clear guidelines” about how to enforce the law, he said.

The parties also asked the court to block provisions of S.B. 1070 that are dependent upon other provisions that have already been blocked by the courts, Segura said. For instance, one provision involves impounding a person’s car if he or she is guilty of harboring an undocumented immigrant. But the harboring provision was blocked by the Ninth Circuit, he said.

Finally, Segura said the joint request asks for the court to award attorneys’ fees to the plaintiffs.

After all the litigation, “not much is left” of S.B. 1070, Segura said. The Supreme Court upheld the “show me your papers” provision, which allows state and local police to ask for immigration documents. But most states with such a provision, including Arizona, have issued attorney general opinions stating that state and local police can’t detain someone solely for being in the country illegally because that’s a civil, not a criminal, violation.

As a result, S.B. 1070—intended to make life so unpleasant for undocumented immigrants in the state that they would leave voluntarily—is “drastically curtailed from what the original intent was,” Segura said.

Not End

But that doesn’t end all litigation over Arizona’s treatment of immigrants. In fact, a new lawsuit was filed Sept. 12 challenging the state’s policy of denying driver’s licenses to certain immigrants ( Osoria v. Ducey , D. Ariz., No. 2:16-cv-03072, complaint filed 9/12/16 ).

The policy denies driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants with deferred action, a form of deportation relief that also allows for work authorization if there is economic need. It was adopted in the wake of another lawsuit over an executive order by former Gov. Jan Brewer (R) denying licenses to participants in the deferred action for childhood arrivals program.

After a federal judge in Arizona found there is no rational basis for the state to single out DACA recipients from others who received deferred action through other programs, the state started denying licenses to all deferred action recipients.

The Ninth Circuit in April put a permanent ban on the anti-DACA policy. But because the policy applying to other deferred action recipients wasn’t part of the lawsuit, it’s still in place. That means immigrants with deferred action because they are helping law enforcement or because they were victims of domestic violence can’t drive to work, and they have been negatively impacted because of that, the lawsuit claims.

A spokeswoman for Ducey said Sept. 15 that the governor’s office is reviewing the driver’s license policy lawsuit.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura D. Francis in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at

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