A federal judge is to weigh evidence on whether to block Arizona’s tough new immigration law Thursday, a week before the measure is to take effect.
The suit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, other groups and 10 individuals, has not been as high-profile as the U.S. Justice Department challenge but has many more plaintiffs and defendants, The Arizona Republic reported.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton will decide whether plaintiffs meet criteria for a preliminary injunction to block the law from taking effect. It authorizes law enforcement officers to ask people to produce documentation if there is “reasonable suspicion” they are in the country illegally.
The plaintiffs, who also include Service Employees International Union and a non-profit organization that helps immigrants, argue the law “encourages racial profiling, endangers public safety and betrays American values.”
Plaintiff Jim Shee, a U.S.-born 70-year-old of Spanish and Chinese descent, told the Republic he has been stopped twice by local law enforcement and asked to show his “papers.”
Friendly House, a Phoenix non-profit, became a plaintiff in the ACLU suit because it believes the law will deter clients from getting help the organization offers, including employment services, childcare and food boxes, interim Chief Executive Officer Terri Leon said. Friendly House serves serves legal residents, citizens and illegal immigrants.
Another plaintiff in the suit, Luz Santiago, 59, a pastor at the predominantly Hispanic church Iglesia Pueblo de Dios in Mesa, said more than a week before the law takes effect, it stirs considerable anxiety among her congregation, about 80 percent of them Hispanics in the country illegally.
“I have seen so much fear in the community,” Santiago said. “I see fear in the eyes of children of my congregation that their parents may one day go out somewhere and not come home. It makes me feel very depressed. The United States is supposed to represent freedom.”
Santiago, who moved from Chicago to Arizona three decades ago, said nothing has had as big an impact on the immigrant community as the law and it has already kept Hispanics away from businesses in droves.
“To see empty stores, to see people not walking around like they used to, the empty apartment complexes, it reminds me of movies of Old West ghost towns,” she said. “There is a mass exodus from Arizona.”