SAN FRANCISCO -- Arizona's attempt to criminalize day laborers who block traffic seeking work came in for rough treatment Wednesday before a federal appeals court.
The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco appeared skeptical of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's argument that the law was a legal way to remedy traffic congestion she says is caused by day laborers. A lower court judge had previously put the law on hold.
Opponents argue the law's true purpose is to crackdown on illegal immigrants. They say it violates the laborers free speech rights and filed a lawsuit to invalidate it.
On Wednesday, the three-judge panel seemed ready to side with opponents.
"Don't you have general traffic laws?" Judge Richard Tallman asked the governor's lawyer almost immediately. The same question was asked several times by Tallman and Judge Raymond Fisher throughout the hour-long hearing. The two Clinton-appointed judges wondered why a new law was needed when blocking traffic is already illegal in Arizona.
"There are indeed other statutes and ordinances," replied the lawyer, Robert Henry. "But those statutes and ordinances have obviously been insufficient to deter this specific problem."
The ban was part of Arizona's Senate Bill 1070, which included among other provisions the so-called "show me your papers" law that captured national attention.
The U.S. Supreme Court this summer upheld that provision, which requires police enforcing other laws to question the immigration status of all those they suspect are in the country illegally.
The high court struck down several portions of the immigration law, however, including sections that made it a crime for immigrants to be without federal immigration papers, mandated jail time for illegal immigrants who sought work in Arizona and made it easier for local police to make immigration-related arrests.
Still other provisions, including the day laborers section, are still being litigated.
Judge Consuelo Maria Callahan, appointed by President George W. Bush, the remaining judge on the panel considering the provision said that Arizona's position was "not unsympathetic," but that its attempts to address illegal immigration, however, are "not doing really well with the Supreme Court."