PHOENIX - Saying domestic-violence victims will be endangered, a national organization that advocates on behalf of women wants a federal judge to block Arizona from enforcing its new law aimed at illegal immigrants.
Legal papers filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court by Legal Momentum say federal law gives special protection to immigrant women to encourage them to report crimes and help prosecute them without fear of being deported. Attorneys also said other federal statutes guarantee access to certain services, including emergency shelter, without regard to immigration status.
All that, they argued, is undermined by SB 1070, which requires police to ask those they have stopped for other reasons about whether they are in this country legally if there is reasonable suspicion that they are not. The law, set to take effect July 29, also allows police to arrest illegal immigrants for violating state trespass laws.
"Arizona police could be stationed outside a battered-women's shelter precisely because immigrant women are likely to use federally guaranteed lifesaving services," wrote attorneys Joanna McCallum and Christopher DuPont. The lawyers also singled out another provision of the law making it a crime to "harbor" or "shield" illegal immigrants.
"SB 1070 . . . undermines the ability of domestic-violence shelters, rape-crisis centers and other victim-service providers to bring crime victims to court, to meetings with prosecutors, and to the hospital for treatment of critical injuries, causing irreparable harm," the attorneys wrote.
State Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, disputed both points, saying SB 1070 says police don't have to ask about legal status if that would "hinder or obstruct an investigation. "We made it clear we left it up to officer discretion . . . for unique situations," he said.
He acknowledged that the legislation provides no legal protection for those who operate domestic-violence shelters or similar facilities. The only people with immunity from prosecution for harboring or shielding illegal immigrants are Child Protective Services workers and "first responders" such as ambulance attendants.
"We made the appropriate exceptions in the bill," Pearce said. And he disputed the contention of the lawyers that federal law gives any special protection for domestic-violence shelters.
"It's another bogus filing by open-border folks who are trying to use a wedge issue to keep the law from being enforced," Pearce said of the paperwork.
The court filing comes as Gov. Jan Brewer is expanding her effort to find money to defend the law.
The Governor's Office set up a website - www.keepazsafe.com - to solicit donations for the legal defense fund she set up by executive order last month.
As of last week, the Governor's Office said, 437 individuals had given nearly $27,000 for the effort through mailed-in donations.