A Phoenix police officer could be fired if he doesn't enforce the Arizona's new state immigration law he has sued to block, an attorney told a federal judge Thursday in the first major hearing in one of seven challenges to the strict crackdown.
Attorneys for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer told U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton that the lawsuit _ filed by Officer David Salgado and the statewide nonprofit group Chicanos Por La Causa _ should be dismissed because Salgado and the group lack legal standing to sue and that there's no valid claim of immediate harm.
But Salgado's attorney disagreed.
"He does have a real threat," attorney Stephen Montoya said. "They can fire him. That's enough."
Bolton is considering whether to block the law and whether to dismiss the lawsuit. She may not rule before the law is set to take effect July 29.
The law requires police, while enforcing other laws, to question a person's immigration status if officers have a reasonable suspicion that the person is in the country illegally.
Supporters say the law was needed because the federal government hasn't adequately confronted illegal immigration in Arizona, which borders Mexico and is the busiest illegal gateway for immigrants into the United States. Opponents say the law would lead to racial profiling and distract from police officers' traditional roles in combating crimes in their communities.
The other legal challenges to the law were filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, civil rights organizations, clergy groups, a researcher from Washington and a Tucson police officer.
Bolton plans to hold similar hearings July 22 in the lawsuits filed by the federal government and civil rights groups.
On Thursday, protesters and supporters of the law gathered outside the courthouse Thursday amid heavy security.
About two dozen supporters of the law, many dressed in red, white and blue, held up signs praising Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a major backer of the crackdown on illegal immigrants, and one said "American Pride."
About 50 feet (15 meters) away a group opposed to the law held up signs calling for repeal of the law.
Montoya said the U.S. Department of Justice's separate challenge to the Arizona law bolsters his clients' argument that the state law is unconstitutional. Both lawsuits contend the state law intrudes on the federal government's constitutional authority to set and enforce immigration policy and regulation.
"That's one more opinion," said John Bouma, a private attorney representing Brewer. "The fact that they brought the claim doesn't mean they are correct."
Since Brewer signed the measure into law April 23, it has inspired rallies in Arizona and elsewhere by advocates on both sides of the immigration debate. Some opponents have advocated a tourism boycott of Arizona.
Salgado's attorneys argue the judge should block the law before it takes effect because it would require an officer to use race as a primary factor in enforcing the law and because the state law is trumped by federal immigration law.
Attorneys for Brewer asked that the officer's lawsuit be thrown out because Salgado doesn't allege a real threat of harm from enforcing the new law and instead bases his claim on speculation. They also said the state law prohibits racial profiling and that it isn't trumped by federal immigration law because it doesn't attempt to regulate the conditions under which people can enter and leave the country.
Associated Press Writers Paul Davenport and Michelle Price contributed to this report.