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Appeals Court Hears Arguments on Arizona Immigration Law

A hearing earlier today on SB 1070, Arizona’s immigration crackdown, went basically as expected: Department of Justice lawyers argued that the law pre-empted federal policy and would hurt foreign relations and other government interests, while lawyers for the state of Arizona claimed it was within the state’s right to create the law. The three-judge panel won’t rule on the issue immediately — it may take months — but the judges gave some indication of what arguments they found interesting during the hour-long hearing.

The judges were considering whether to continue or dismiss a temporary injunction placed on the law’s more contested provisions by a federal judge in July. That involves four questions: whether the law can require police to check immigration status on anyone they stop, whether immigrants can be required to carry immigration papers, whether police can hold suspected illegal immigrants until their status is verified and whether illegal immigrants can be barred from seeking jobs.

For the most part, the judges did not ask questions about whether states had the right to require police to check immigration status. That doesn’t necessarily mean they will tell the federal judge to remove an injunction on that provision, but could indicate a lack of concern over the constitutionality of that particular provision.

The judges seemed more convinced by the Justice Department’s argument against requiring immigrants to carry identification. They also asked numerous questions about whether suspected illegal immigrants could be held without limits while their status was being verified and whether police could determine what constitutes a removable offense.

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