Court to hear appeal over Arizona's no-bail law

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX (AP) -- An appeals court in San Francisco is scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday over an Arizona law that denies bail to people who aren't authorized to be in the country and are charged with certain felonies.

Proponents say the law prevents those in the country illegally who skip out on their bail from committing future offenses, while critics say the law's real intent is to punish immigrants before they have been convicted of crimes.

The 2006 law that will be considered by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denies bail to people who are in the country illegally and charged with certain felonies, such as murder, sexual assault and even aggravated identity theft.

It was approved with 78 percent of the vote and was among four immigration proposals approved by Arizonans in 2006. The other measures made English the state's official language, barred immigrants who aren't authorized to be in the country from receiving punitive damages in lawsuits and prohibit them from receiving certain government services and benefits.

The no-bail law was proposed by then-state Rep. Russell Pearce, who would later succeed in pushing through Arizona's landmark 2010 immigration enforcement law.

A three-member panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had previously rejected a challenge to the no-bail law, finding that the law didn't run afoul of the Constitution. But the challengers succeeded in getting an 11-member panel of the court to consider the case.

The challengers say the push by the Legislature to put the measure on the ballot was permeated with the intent to punish people who were in the country illegally for federal immigration violations. They also argue the state law is trumped by federal law.

The lawyers defending the law say the intent of the law was to improve public safety, not to punish people for federal immigration violations. They also said the state law doesn't conflict with federal law.

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