Updated 01:38 PM EST, Mon, Mar 01, 2021

Immigration Reform 2014: Judge Gives Access to Emails About Arizona's Controversial Immigration Law

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A federal judge has given opponents of SB 1070, Arizona's controversial immigration law, access to emails, memos and letters that were sent between the bill's supporters and legislators to see if the messages contain racial undertones. 

In December, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton rejected arguments made by two supporters of the law who asserted that communications between themselves and lawmakers were confidential. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, opponents of the law call Bolton's ruling a victory because their lawsuit is partly based on allegations that legislators meant to intentionally discriminate against Latinos and other minorities. They argue that if the allegations prove true, the law may violate the equal protection clause in the Constitution. 

Bolton's ruling also covers emails, letters and memos sent that are related to earlier immigration measures. 

SB 1070 is considered to be the harshest law against illegal immigration in the country. The measure has elicited ire from minorities and civil rights groups, while some states have used it as a model to enact their own immigration laws. 

Late last month, attorneys for two anti-illegal immigration groups, the Immigration Reform Law Institute and the Federation for American Immigration Reform, filed a motion for the decision's reconsideration. The judge's order applies to emails from the two groups that were sent to legislators.

Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform and chairman of the board at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, strongly condemned the decision. 

"It's broad and vastly intrusive and interferes with our 1st Amendment liberties to interact with public officials," Stein said.

Bolton rejected the argument, saying 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."

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down two provisions of the legislation, which was signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer in 2010. Although two key portions were struck down, the court allowed Arizona to force law enforcement officials to check the status of someone they stop for lawful reasons if they suspect that person is in the country illegally. Opponents of the law believe the measure perpetuates racial profiling. 

Immigration rights activists have filed suit against the law and have been battling to have the provision blocked. 

Victor Viramontes, the senior legal counsel with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said the law's opponents subpoenaed communications that mentioned the words "day laborer," "alien" and wetback."

"We'll be looking for any kind of explicit derogatory depictions of Latinos," Viramontes 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."

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