By Alan Gomez, USA TODAY
After years of legal wrangling that culminated in a landmark Supreme Court decision, a federal judge ruled Tuesday that Arizona police can start enforcing the state's immigration law.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton formally lifted the injunction that she originally placed on the law in 2010, just a day before it was scheduled to go into effect. Now, all the state's police officers can carry out the parts of the law that survived.
The most scrutinized will be a portion that requires police to determine the immigration status of a person stopped, detained or arrested if there's a "reasonable suspicion" that they're in the country illegally.
Tuesday's ruling may not end the legal wrangling over the law. Several civil rights groups, including the National Immigration Law Center, have vowed to continue monitoring the law and will bring lawsuits if Arizonans are subjected to racial profiling.
But the ruling allows officers to finally implement a law that they've been hearing about, and training on, for over two years.
The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (SB 1070) was passed by the Arizona's Republican-controlled legislature in 2010, and signed into law by the state's Republican Gov. Jan Brewer. The governor and sponsors of the law argued it was necessary to combat the flow of illegal immigrants pouring into Arizona, and the law made "attrition through enforcement" it's central tenet.
"Today is truly an important day for Arizona and supporters of the rule of law," Brewer said in a statement. "It is not enough that SB 1070 be enforced. It must be enforced efficiently, effectively and in harmony with the Constitution and civil rights. I have full faith and confidence that Arizona's state and local law enforcement officers are prepared for this task."
Opponents, including the National Council of La Raza, argued that it created an environment where Hispanics would be racially profiled. The Department of Justice argued that it would lead to a "patchwork of state and local policies that would seriously disrupt federal immigration enforcement."
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with that argument, in part. The court ruled that three sections of the law targeting illegal immigrants went too far. One section made it a state crime for illegal immigrants to fail to carry government registration papers, and a second made it a crime for illegal immigrants to solicit work.
But the court ruled that the main component could stand, arguing that it was impossible to know if it would be misused by police officers before going into effect.
"There is a basic uncertainty about what the law means and how it will be enforced," the opinion read. "At this stage, without the benefit of a definitive interpretation from the state courts, it would be inappropriate to assume (Section 2(B)) will be construed in a way that creates a conflict with federal law."
After the decision, Brewer declared the ruling "a victory for the rule of law." Her office has said it was ready to implement the law as soon as the injunction was lifted.
Others were disappointed to hear of Tuesday's ruling.
"Laws requiring people to be judged by the color of their skin have no place in the US. Not today and not ever," said Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. "While courts have yet to stop all of SB1070, all of us who believe in human rights and cherished constitutional values have an obligation to do everything we can to ensure that Arizona's current lawmakers are on the losing side of history."
Karen Tumlin, managing attorney for the National Immigration Law Center, has another lawsuit ongoing to prevent the law enforcement section of the law from going into effect. She said they will also be watching closely for cases of people being racially profiled by Arizona police offices.
"Obviously, we're extremely disappointed," she said. "It's a sad day for Arizona and the country."