Three civil rights and civil liberties groups filed suit in federal court today to block SB 1070, the harsh immigration statute which, the groups say, violates the Constitution.

The suit argues that the law, known as SB 1070, will essentially require police to racially profile and that it violates several constitutional provisions, including the 1st and 4th Amendments.

The groups also contend it is an illegal attempt for a state to regulate immigration, a federal matter.

The suit was filed by groups that include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center.

Among its plaintiffs are a 70-year-old U.S. citizen of Latino and Asian heritage who says he has recently been stopped twice by Arizona police and asked for his papers, and another citizen who attends Arizona State University who fears he will need to carry his birth certificate because his New Mexico driver’s license does not constitute proof of citizenship under SB 1070.

It will be interesting to see whether the plaintiffs will be seen by the courts to have standing to sue under the law. In a similar case in California, the argument of the states intervening to enforce a federal measure was enough to block implementation of Prop. 187 until a US District Court judge ruled most of it unconstitutional. Presumably that ruling could be seen as precedent here.

Officials for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer have vowed to fight the lawsuit. There are at least five federal lawsuits which have been filed against the immigration law, but the ACLU/NAACP/MALDEF suit is seen as the most comprehensive and credible thus far.

David Dayen

David Dayen