Arizona Alien Transporting Law Struck Down

Arizona’s attempt to criminalize harboring and transporting aliens in the state was struck down Tuesday as unconstitutionally vague and that it is preempted by federal law.  The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called one of the law’s key elements “unintelligible” and thus void as vague under the Constitution’s due process clause.

The ruling upholds a district court’s issuance of a preliminary injunction against the law.

The appeal is part of a series of challenges to Arizona’s 2010 Senate Bill 1070, which passed over concern for the influx of unauthorized aliens in Arizona.

The latest appeal challenges the criminalizing of transporting or harboring undocumented aliens, which classes a single violation as a misdemeanor with a fine of $1,000 and a violation of 10 or more illegal aliens as a felony with a minimum fine of $1,000 per alien.

The only exception is for child protective service workers, ambulance attendants and other emergency personnel.

The suit was brought by Luz Santiago, a pastor at a church in Mesa, Arizona, with a congregation that is 80 percent illegal aliens.

She provides shelter and transportation to members of the church, including undocumented aliens.  She alleges that she feared prosecution under SB1070, if the law were allowed to stand.

Although Arizona argued that the law requires an intent to evade federal immigration law, the 9th Circuit disagreed.  The panel found the law did “not clearly include an intent requirement.”

A host of other social groups challenged the law, including Southside Presbyterian Church, Border Action Network and Arizona South Asians for Safe Families.

“We conclude that the phrase ‘in violation of a criminal offense’ is unintelligible and therefore the statute is void for vagueness,” wrote Judge Richard Paez.  He was joined by Judges John Noonan and Carlos Bea.

Bea did partially dissent from the opinion, saying the panel went too far in holding the law was preempted by federal immigration statutes.

Case:  Valle del Sol Inc. v. Whiting, No. 12-17152



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