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Judge hears two challenges to Arizona immigration law

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Arizona immigration showdown
  • Federal judge hears two challenges to Arizona immigration law
  • The new law takes effect July 29
  • Foes of law say it encourages racial profiling
  • State claims challengers can prove no harm

(CNN) -- With only a week to go before it takes effect, a federal judge Thursday heard arguments about Arizona's new immigration law and whether it violates the U.S. Constitution or is a legitimate response to insufficient federal enforcement.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton heard two requests for an injunction, one from the U.S. Justice Department and another separate lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union. She gave no indication on when she might rule.

Bolton's courtroom was packed during the two hearings and protesters chanted outside throughout the afternoon. Seven protesters against the law were arrested on civil disobedience charges, according to the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

Thursday's arguments revolved around a range of issues, including racial profiling, effective enforcement and possible harm to Arizona's citizens.

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Attorneys from the Obama administration were at the second hearing. The administration's challenge contends Arizona's law usurped federal supremacy on the matter.

Bolton asked federal lawyers why Arizona can't enforce immigration law to the full extent the U.S. government permits.

"Why can't Arizona be as inhospitable as they wish to people who have entered the United States illegally?" she said, according to the Associated Press.

Arizona has argued that the federal government has not done a good job of securing the border.

"A law unenforced is no law at all," said state attorney John Bouma.

The American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of civil rights groups earlier in the day argued that the controversial law amounts to racial profiling and will have a profound effect if it goes into effect July 29.

"It treats people of color as suspects first, rather than (as) citizens," attorney Karen Tumlin said after the hearing.

Bouma said the law would not treat people unfairly.

"These are hypothetical arguments. Local police are enforcing immigration laws all over the country," he told Bolton.

The law, signed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in April, requires police to question people about their status if they have been detained for another reason and if there's reason to suspect they're in the United States illegally. It also targets those who hire illegal immigrant laborers or knowingly transport them. Bolton questioned lawyers on whether the law also could apply to employees.

Brewer attended the second hearing Thursday.

Those in favor of the law say SB 1070 is consistent with federal law. They say the law explicitly prohibits racial profiling and they are challenging the legal standing of many of the groups opposed.

They also contend opponents of the law have not been able to show there will be any harm from its implementation.

During the first hearing, Bolton said the law has a section allowing parts to still take effect even if other parts are struck down, according to CNN affiliate KNXV.

Tumlin, managing attorney for the National Immigration Law Center, and other lawyers and foes of the law repeated assertions that Arizona's law should be rejected.

"We are here to defend the rights of those who cannot stand up for themselves," said Terri Leon, CEO of the Friendly House, which supports the legal challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Bolton heard another legal challenge to SB 1070 last week, which was brought by an Arizona police officer. She has not made a ruling in that case.

The lawsuits are among seven that have been filed.

CNN's Casey Wian and Chuck Conder contributed to this report.