A judge has ruled that police in Arizona can immediately begin to enforce the contentious “papers please” section of the state’s immigration law, marking the first time officers can question the immigration status of those suspected of being in the country illegally while enforcing other laws.
The decision on Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton is the latest milestone in a two-year legal battle over the requirement. It culminated in a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that upheld the provision on the grounds that it doesn’t conflict with federal law.
Despite the decision that lets Arizona’s questioning requirement take effect, some backers of the law questioned the level of cooperation they will get from federal immigration agents, who will be called to verify people’s immigration status and be responsible for picking up illegal immigrants from local officers.
Federal immigration officers have said they will help, but only if doing so conforms to their priorities, including catching repeat violators and identifying and removing those who threaten public safety and national security. If federal agents decline to pick up illegal immigrants, local officers in some cases will likely have to let them go unless they’re suspected of committing a crime that would require them to be brought to jail.
Among the opponents of the law was the Obama administration, which filed a challenge that led to the most controversial parts of the statute being put on hold.