Appeals Court Upholds Injunction on Controversial Arizona Law

On April 11, 2011, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court decision blocking controversial provisions of Arizona’s immigration law, S.B. 1070, from taking effect. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that there is sufficient evidence to believe that the challenged provisions amount to an unconstitutional preemption by the state of the federal government’s authority to regulate and enforce U.S. immigration laws.


There has been significant popular media coverage of Arizona’s efforts to step into immigration enforcement via a law known as S.B. 1070. This law provides state and local law enforcement officials with extensive authority regarding immigration issues and suspected undocumented foreign nationals. Prior to the effective date of the law, the United States sued the State of Arizona in federal district court, alleging that S.B. 1070 violated the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, based on the legal theory of preemption. For an analysis of this legal theory, please see our news article, Federal Government Sues Arizona Over Immigration Law (09 Jul. 2010). [Readers might also be interested in following this topic in the MurthyBlog. See a recent entry on this topic, Diane Rehm Show: Debating State Immigration Measures (08.Apr.2011).]

As part of the lawsuit, the United States asked for an injunction in order to place the law on hold until a final decision is made as to its constitutionality. On July 28, 2010, the U.S. District Court for Arizona granted the injunction in part, ruling that the most controversial provisions of S.B. 1070 should not become effective pending further review as to their constitutionality. The enjoined provisions include those that require police officers to question an individual’s immigration status and permit officers, without warrants, to arrest anyone whom they have reasonable suspicion is in the United States unlawfully. Also enjoined was the requirement to carry immigration papers at all times and the provision that makes it a state crime to attempt to secure employment when not authorized to do so. The State of Arizona appealed the issuance of this injunction, which led to the April 11, 2011 decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Legal Issues and the Future of S.B. 1070

The central matter under consideration by the 9th Circuit was whether the United States will likely succeed on its federal preemption argument against the controversial provisions. The court answered in the affirmative, finding that that there is likely no set of circumstances in which all the controversial provisions will be found constitutional. Thus, the United States is likely to succeed on the merits of its challenge. As a consequence, the controversial provisions are on hold awaiting further rulings on the lawsuit filed against Arizona regarding the constitutional issues. The State of Arizona can either appeal the issuance of the injunction (possibly all the way to the Supreme Court), or it can allow the injunction to stand until a ruling is made regarding the constitutionality of the controversial provisions.


We at the Murthy Law Firm will continue to monitor the developments of S.B. 1070 and provide our readers with updates as it makes its way through the various legal stages. This promises to be a long and contentious process that will have an effect on similar legislation currently pending in states throughout the country.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.