Federal Judge Gives Immigration Groups Access to Arizona Lawmaker Emails

Phoenix, AZ- Arizona lawmakers and anti-immigration groups will have to share their emails, memos and letters with challengers of the state’s controversial immigration law a federal judge ordered, eliciting the ire of anti-immigration groups.

In December, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton decided that immigration groups which are seeking to block S.B. 1070 could have access to memos, emails and letters shared between lawmakers and supporters of the law.

The ruling is a victory to opponents of the law who argue the law unfairly targets Latinos and other people of color. It also represent yet another legal challenge to what is considered the toughest immigration law in the country and served as a blueprint for similar laws in other states.

The majority of Arizona’s immigration law was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2012. However they allowed the state to enact a provision of the law that allows local law enforcement officer to check the immigration status of anyone they stop legally. This provision of the law, immigration activists argue, targets Latinos and sought the documents to see if they contained any racially-charged language and violations the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Judge Bolton’s ruling will also cover documents pre-dating S.B. 1070, but she did not set a deadline for when the documents have to be produced.

The groups heading this legal challenge will comb through the documents looking for specific words or phrases such as “Hispanic,” “day laborer,” “Mexicans,” “alien” and “wetback.”

“We’ll be looking for any kind of explicit derogatory depictions of Latinos,” Victor Viramontes senior legal counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund said. “Anything with racial overtones with regards to Latinos or Mexicans and any kind of communication that suggests the true reason this law was passed, to target and discriminate against Latinos.”

In late December, two anti-immigration groups, the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Immigration Reform Law Institute, filed a motion to have Judge Bolton’s decision reconsidered, calling her initial ruling an “invidious fishing expedition.”

“It’s broad and vastly intrusive and interferes with our 1st Amendment liberties to interact with public officials,” Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Immigration Reform Law Institute said of Judge Bolton’s ruling.

Judge Bolton however disagreed stating there was nothing in the “law that protects from public view communications with public officials in their official capacity about a matter of public concern. Indeed, Arizona law makes all such communications available to the public under its freedom of information law.”

Arizona’s S.B. 1070 was signed into law in 2010 and contained numerous provisions which enhanced local law enforcement’s ability to stop and detain those suspected of being undocumented immigrants. Much of the law was blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court with the exception of the “papers please provision which pro-immigration groups are seeking to have blocked. If they are able to find any racially-charged language in the documents they may be successful in having the law overturned.