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Appeals court upholds injunction on SB 1070′s day-laborer provisions

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WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court ruled Monday that a section of Arizona’s SB 1070 is unenforceable because it infringes on the free-speech rights of day laborers and their prospective employers.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a district court decision blocking enforcement of the law that would have made it illegal to solicit workers from a car, or for a worker to accept such an offer, if it impedes traffic.

The appeals court agreed that the state has a valid interest in ensuring traffic safety. But it rejected the argument the day-laborer provision was strictly for traffic safety, pointing to the introduction of SB 1070 that said it was meant to encourage self-deportation by stripping undocumented immigrants of their livelihood.

“Laws that limit commercial speech must not be more extensive than necessary to serve a substantial government interest,” said the court, which found the Arizona law went too far.

Attorney General Tom Horne said Monday that he expects the case to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The right to free speech does not give anyone the right to endanger public safety,” Horne said in an emailed statement.

He echoed the argument laid out in the case that the provision is a commonsense effort to make sure the streets are safe for drivers and pedestrians.

“The court easily saw through that ploy,” said Dan Pochoda, the Arizona legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union.

The judges said Arizona already has laws in place that prohibit blocking traffic, but SB 1070 unnecessarily singled out day laborers seeking work and infringed on their right to commercial free speech.

The First Amendment protects the rights of everyone in the United States regardless of their immigration status, Pochoda said. He said it is “very possible this will be the final decision” in the case because traffic laws from other states targeting day laborers have been challenged and struck down in federal court.

But he noted this case is part of an on-going struggle for equal protection for immigrants in legislatures and courts.

He said the ACLU continues to monitor the most controversial part of SB 1070, known as the “show-me-your-papers” provision. It requires that local police ask criminal suspects for proof of citizenship if they believe that the person is in the country illegally.

The Supreme Court upheld that portion of the law last summer, saying it was not unconstitutional on its face but could be challenged later if it is being applied in a discriminatory way.

“The battle is being waged for legal protection,” Pochoda said.

Immigration advocates hailed Monday’s decision as the latest in a series of rulings blocking provisions of SB 1070 that lead to criminal charges.

“The heart of SB 1070 has been cut out,” said Victor Viramontes, the lawyer with Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund who argued the case.

But Gov. Jan Brewer’s office called the ruling a disappointment. A statement from her office said she would be consulting with the state’s lawyers about future steps.

“This provision offered one more tool for law enforcement to use in combating crime in our neighborhoods as a result of illegal immigration,” the statement said.