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Arizona takes immigration fight to top U.S. court

LOS ANGELES, May 9, 2011 (AFP) – Arizona will take its fight over a controversial immigration law direct to the U.S. Supreme Court, the southwestern state’s governor said Monday.

Jan Brewer said the law, which came into force last year but with key parts frozen by a court injunction, was essential for Arizona’s battle against drug- and violence-scarred illegal immigration from Mexico to the south.

“I’ve always known this legal fight would be a long one,” she said. “But now that this is the path we’ve chosen, I am confident Arizona will prevail.”

The disputed Arizona law took effect last July, but was stripped of a controversial provision that would have given police officers the power to check the immigration status of suspected criminals.

The provision had been blocked by a federal court that agreed with the U.S. Department of Justice’s argument that immigration issues are the jurisdiction of the U.S. government – not state governments.

Opponents said the law was xenophobic and would lead to people being stopped on the streets simply because of the way they look.

But officials in Arizona say they have to act to stem a tide of illegal immigrants from across the border with Mexico, accompanied by soaring crime rates fueled by people smuggling and gun- and drug-running.

Brewer said she decided to appeal directly to the Supreme Court, rather than back to the federal Ninth US Circuit Court of appeals, because of the urgent need to enact the law in full.

“Time is of the essence. By appealing this case straight to the US Supreme Court .. there is greater likelihood that legal questions surrounding SB 1070 will be resolved quickly so that the law can begin to do its job,” she said.

“When faced with injustice, Arizonans will not sit idly by. We will act,” she added, saying: “Our issue is bigger than simply border security.

“It’s about the principle that a state must be able to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens, especially in the absence of sufficient federal assistance,” she said.

“I’m confident that Arizona will emerge victorious from this legal fight.”

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