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Immigration hearing sparks demonstration

A crowd is gathered outside the federal courthouse as a hearing gets underway on Arizona's controversial immigration law.
November 2, 2010 1:47:48 AM PDT
The legal battle over Arizona's controversial immigration law made its way to San Francisco on Monday. Key portions of that law were blocked by a federal judge and now Arizona is asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals to reverse the ruling.

Those of us who were there got the sense that the three-member panel will reinstate part of the Arizona law that, among other things, would allow police to stop and question illegal immigrants. Two of the three members of that panel are Hispanic; still, they suggested that a federal judge went too far when she blocked the law.

It was the state of Arizona versus the U.S. government.

"Which is basically just to decide who should and should not be admitted to this country and the circumstances under which a legal entrance should remain," said Arizona attorney John Bouma.

Arizona is asking a three-member panel to unblock a key portion of the law that would require police to check a person's legal status.

ABC7 legal analyst Dean Johnson says it would not be a matter of could, but must.

"In this case Arizona has said one of the things that you as an officer have to do as a matter of law, if you are detaining someone lawfully, is to check on immigration status," said Johnson.

The deputy solicitor general for the U.S. government argued this would undermine federal immigration enforcement.

"It's therefore important not to allow for a patchwork of state laws but rather for the nation to speak with one voice," said Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler.

The controversial law would have required police to lock up anyone they stop who cannot show proof they entered the country legally. But before it went into effect, a federal judge blocked parts of it. Among them was one provision that says illegal aliens can't even look for work -- something an earlier panel of the 9th Circuit Court had ruled as unconstitutional.

"And they've said no that's unconstitutional, you cannot prohibit the person from even applying for a job, so that he could feed himself or clothed himself while he is here in the country," said Johnson.

Many attending today's hearing anticipate the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals may keep some provisions and toss out others.

The governor of Arizona signed the bill into law and was there on Monday.

"If it's a split decision, then I will be grateful for my side of the split. If it happens that way, and of course we will move on, we will move on to the Supreme Court," said Gov. Jan Brewer, R-Arizona.

Outside tensions ran high between Arizona law supporters and those who oppose it.

If the injunction is lifted, police in Arizona are expected to begin enforcing the law immediately, but as everyone knows, this will eventually be a matter for the U.S. Supreme Court.

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