Putting Arizona's SB 1070 on Hold.

The avalanche of lawsuits began as soon as Gov. Jan Brewer signed Arizona's immigration-enforcement bill on April 23. By my count, five have been filed so far, with a new one springing up every week or so. Usually, civil-rights lawsuits revolve around a tight coalition of advocacy groups and a carefully selected plaintiff, but the challenges to SB 1070 are coming from many different directions -- individual law-enforcement officers, city councils, the federal government, advocacy groups, and religious organizations. On Friday, lawyers in a class-action suit brought by the ACLU, NAACP, and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) asked a federal judge to stop the law from going into effect as scheduled in July until it goes through the courts.

Judges generally grant a preliminary injunction when they think the plaintiff could suffer "irreparable harm" if the court doesn't intervene early. Given the number of different plaintiffs who've brought suit, I don't see how the court could not grant an injunction; even if, after looking closely at the law, the court determines that it is constitutional, the potential for harm is self-evident. In 1994, the courts stopped a similar measure in California, Prop. 187, from going into effect just three days after the measure passed by a wide margin.

It will become clear very early how the federal court views these cases, and not only because the court is already considering who could be harmed by the law. Another part of the standard for granting an injunction is the "likelihood of success on the merits" -- a sort of a decision-before-the-decision where a judge weighs how good a case you have against the possible negative effects of an injunction. Whether an injunction is granted will be a telling sign of what's to come.

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