PHOENIX - A federal appeals court Tuesday rejected a request by civil-rights groups for a new injunction to once again block Arizona's 2010 immigration law.
In a brief order, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected claims by challengers to SB 1070 that allowing it to be enforced now will result in racial profiling.
Opponents argued the law should be put back on "hold" to give them time to make their case without fear of people being needlessly - and they claim illegally - detained.
Tuesday's action still leaves the option of seeking Supreme Court review.
But the chances of the high court interceding could be slim at best: It was that same court that earlier this year overturned a previous injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton in a different case. The justices said, in essence, that blocking the law before it had a chance to be enforced was premature.
The appellate judges, in Tuesday's order, refused even an interim stay of the law to give the challengers a chance to make a plea to the Supreme Court.
At the heart of the fight is a provision of SB 1070 that says when police have stopped someone for any reason they are also supposed to question them about their immigration status if there is reason to believe they are in this country illegally.
A bid by the Obama administration to argue that conflicts with federal law was rejected in June by the high court. And Bolton, who had enjoined enforcement two years ago, formally dissolved that order last week, giving police the go-ahead.
This lawsuit, however, is based on claims the law on its face is discriminatory, and there is no way it can be enforced without unfairly targeting Hispanics.
The attorneys for the civil-rights groups say that means the earlier Supreme Court ruling calling an injunction premature is legally irrelevant to their own criticism of the law - and their own efforts to have it stayed.
Nothing in Tuesday's ruling affects the underlying challenge to the law that is before Bolton. It simply means the law remains in effect in Arizona while the case goes to trial, something that could take months.
In a prepared statement, Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed the legislation, said she presumes there will be continued litigation.
"I am under no illusion that opponents of SB 1070 will stop their baseless allegations and call off their teams of lawyers," she said. "Even now, they scheme for new ways to undermine the rule of law and malign the character and commitment of our state and local law enforcement."
Linton Joaquin, attorney for the National Immigration Law Center, one of the challengers, said he and the lawyers from the other groups need to assess what to do next.
Omar Jadwat, a lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union, said one decision is how much effort to spend trying again to get the law stayed versus putting together the strongest case possible to eventually convince Bolton the law is illegally discriminatory.
He said, though, these choices are not mutually exclusive.
"We obviously can walk and chew gum at the same time, to some degree," Jadwat quipped.