Scenarios: What could happen with Arizona’s immigration law

By Jeremy Pelofsky

WASHINGTON (BestGrowthStock) – The Obama administration goes to court on Thursday to argue for a preliminary injunction to block Arizona’s controversial immigration law from taking effect on July 29.

Here are some scenarios for what could happen.


The Obama administration has argued that immigration matters are handled on a federal level and that the Arizona law is pre-empted under the U.S. Constitution and federal law. The administration has requested a preliminary injunction blocking the law, arguing it would cause irreparable harm if it goes into effect.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton will hear oral arguments from the federal government as well as the state of Arizona and could grant the preliminary injunction request if she finds that ultimately the Obama administration would succeed on the merits in its quest to nullify the state law.

If she grants the injunction, Arizona state and local authorities would be prevented from enforcing the law. The state could appeal, which would be considered before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


Bolton could decide the Obama administration failed to make an adequate argument that the law would cause irreparable harm, and deny the preliminary injunction. That would allow the law to take effect next week.

Bolton would then issue a schedule for legal briefs to be submitted and oral arguments to be held on the merits of whether the Arizona law violated the U.S. Constitution.

The Obama administration also could ask the federal appeals court to consider an emergency request to prevent the law from going into effect.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said earlier this month that if the law did take effect, the Justice Department could look to see what impact it was having, such as whether any racial profiling had been done in violation of the law.


Bolton could decide the Obama administration’s challenge would not necessarily win on every element of the Arizona law and grant a partial injunction preventing only sections of the law from going into effect.

One legal scholar, Kevin Johnson, dean of the University of California, Davis, School of Law, said provisions in the law about issues such as day laborers who might be illegal immigrants could be severed by the court and allowed to take effect. The Arizona law makes it illegal to hire day laborers off the street.

“The government’s challenge only focuses on immigration … but at the same time, the MALDEF and ACLU suit does challenge the day laborer provisions,” he said, referring to challenges by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and American Civil Liberties Union.

“It’s going to be a section-by-section analysis by the court,” Johnson said.

Again, either side could go to the federal appeals court if it did not like the judge’s decision or where she draws the line.


Obama and Republicans in Congress have both said the Arizona law should prompt the U.S. Congress to adopt comprehensive immigration reform. They differ vastly on how to do so and the legislative calendar is short before November’s congressional elections.

Republicans have demanded more effort to secure the border and have said the initial deployment of National Guard troops to the border was inadequate. Many Republicans also oppose giving the nearly 11 million illegal immigrants believed to be in the United States amnesty to remain in the country.

Obama supports allowing undocumented immigrants in good standing to pay a fine, learn English and get on the track to citizenship. He also has supported tightening border security and clamping down on employers that hire undocumented workers.


If the federal court puts the Arizona law on hold, the state Legislature could try to alter it in order to address concerns about its constitutionality.

In that case, it will depend on how broadly Bolton rules. If she finds that Arizona cannot pass laws regulating immigration, there would be little state lawmakers could do.

If some of the law can be salvaged, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican, could call a special session of the Legislature.

State lawmakers already have amended the immigration law once to try to prevent racial profiling. Under the changes, police will be required to investigate the immigration status of those they reasonably suspect are in the country illegally, only in the case of lawful contact such as a traffic stop.

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(Additional reporting by Tim Gaynor in Phoenix; Editing by Bill Trott and Peter Cooney)

Scenarios: What could happen with Arizona’s immigration law