By JACQUES BILLEAUD 10/31/11 05:18 PM ET | Source: HuffingtonPost.com
PHOENIX — Groups opposing Arizona’s immigration enforcement law have asked a federal judge to put a stop to a section of the statute that bans the blocking of traffic when people seek or offer day-labor services on streets.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and other opponents filed a preliminary injunction request on Friday seeking to block enforcement of the provision, saying it unconstitutionally restricts the free speech rights of people who want to express their need for work. The request was filed in an existing lawsuit by the groups.
The state can’t justify the statewide ban based on scattered instances of solicitations creating traffic problems in Phoenix, they said, adding that there are already laws on the books to deal with people who block traffic.
The ban was among a handful of provisions in the law that were allowed to take effect after a July 2010 decision by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton halted enforcement of other, more controversial elements of the law. The blocked portions include a requirement that police, while enforcing other laws, question people’s immigration status if officers suspect they are in the country illegally.
Gov. Jan Brewer has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Bolton’s ruling after she lost an appeal in a lower court.
Brewer’s lawyers have also opposed attempts to halt enforcement of the day-labor restrictions, which they argue are meant to confront safety concerns, as well as distractions to drivers, harassment to passers-by, trespassing and damage to property.
They told the court that day laborers congregate on roadsides in large groups, flagging down vehicles and often swarming those that stop. They also said day laborers in Phoenix, Chandler, Mesa and Fountain Hills leave behind water bottles, food wrappers and other trash.
Bolton previously denied an earlier request to block the day labor rules, but opponents were allowed to bring it up again after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on a similar issue in September.
The appeals court had suspended a law from Redondo Beach, Calif., that banned day laborers from standing on public sidewalks while soliciting work from motorists. The court ruled the law violated workers’ free speech rights and was so broad that it was illegal for children to shout “car wash” to passing drivers.