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Judge Bolton and Saving Arizona

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The other day, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in tandem with Colorado law enforcement busted through a U.S. citizen’s front door threw him down on the ground and handcuffed him. The 24-year old was on his way to a jail cell, and eventual deportation, when his stepmother intervened by waving her stepson’s dark blue American passport in the agents’ faces.

The agents were targeting legal immigrant and undocumented gang members with criminal convictions. The young man had been in a gang in the past and had served time but had since turned his life around, left the gang and stayed out of trouble. He’d also become an U.S. citizen. Apparently, the federal database had not been updated.

This was Colorado not Arizona. These kinds of incidents are happening all over the nation. The line between law enforcement and federal immigration officers is increasingly being blurred. And increasingly our civil and human rights are being trampled in the process. The push for local law enforcement to do federal immigration’s bidding is not only damaging people’s trust in law enforcement but also threatening our constitutional rights.

So it’s good news that just hours before Arizona would have enacted one of the worst immigration laws ever written, Federal Judge Susan Bolton took the prudent act of blocking some of the more cringe worthy sections of the Arizona immigration bill. A bill that would blur the lines even further between law enforcement and federal immigration.

Yes, I did read SB 1070. And it is one of the worst pieces of legislation I’ve ever read. And that’s saying a lot because I worked in the Texas Legislature for five years.

Thankfully, Bolton blocked the four following sections of the legislation from taking effect: the requirement that every alien “at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration.”  The provision allowing Arizona law enforcement to make warrantless arrests by allowing an officer to arrest anyone whom the officer has probable cause to believe “ has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States.”

She also blocked the requirement that an officer make a reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of a person stopped detained or arrested if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is unlawfully present in the United States. Plus the provision making it a state crime for securing work while not a legal resident.

While people who are advocating for this law say they are fed up with illegal immigration. Their frustration is misguided. They should be focusing their discontent instead on congressional members who have played political games with immigration to their own advantage but done nothing to fix the myriad of problems. I find it puzzling that Tea baggers who are so bent on wearing a gun on their hip to protect their 2nd amendment rights are all too eager to enable a police state by supporting SB 1070.

No doubt, supporters of the bill have salty words for Judge Bolton’s actions today. But Arizona’s law will do nothing to fix our broken immigration system. Instead it will only fan the flames of a police state with more bureaucracy and more legal logjams. And further erode the rights of Arizona’s citizens who just like the man in Colorado could have their doors busted down any day by ICE and local law enforcement. And this is without the implementation of Arizona’s new law.

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. Melissa is a 2014-15 Lannan Fellow at The Investigative Fund.