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TribBlog: Texas Leaders Sound Off on Arizona Ruling

Texas lawmakers and legal experts react to today's decision to strike down critical elements of Arizona's immigration law.

Demonstrators march through the streets of downtown Dallas in 2010 to protest the passage of Arizona's controversial new immigration law.

A federal judge’s decision to gut controversial elements of Arizona’s immigration law drew swift but predictable reaction from interested politicians in Texas. The Associated Press reported today that U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton “halted implementation of the parts of the law that require police to determine the immigration status of people they stop and think are in the country illegally.” Bolton also ruled against a new law which would have made failure to possess immigration documents a crime. 

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, in a conference call with reporters today, was quick to caution the ruling was a preliminary injunction and not a determination of "the ultimate constitutionality and legality of the Arizona law.” He added he didn’t support a state-by-state approach to securing the border and enforcing immigration. He did, however, use the decision to further rebuke the Obama administration for what he deems a failure to act.

“My understanding is that the Department of Justice and the administration took the position that this was Congress’ responsibility and not the states,” he said. “But the irony here is that, if the state law is struck down, at least in part, it leaves a void that can only be filled by the federal government, and I don’t see much interest, much appetite by the majority party or the administration to step up and do its job.”

Texas state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, decried the decision and said she still planned to move forward with legislation similar to the law the Judge Bolton halted.

“In essence, Judge Bolton has told Arizona’s citizens they are necessarily at the mercy of the federal government, and may not act in their own defense against the myriad negative consequences forced upon them by an onslaught of illegal immigration,” she said. “In the meantime, nothing about this ruling impacts my plans to move forward with a bill that is substantially similar to HB 49 ... Decisions by the United States District Court of Arizona are not binding in Texas."

State Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, applauded the measure and called it a big step in preventing copycat legislation.

The Arizona law would have created "more problems than we currently have as we attempt to provide adequate immigration reforms in this country,” he said. “(The law) would only open the doors for all the states to do the same, and in essence allow state and local police to have inherent authority to enforce all immigration law. Can you imagine having 50 different immigration laws? When all we need is one at the federal level?”

Alonzo predicted at an immigration rally in May that similar legislation wouldn’t make it out of the Texas House of Representatives next session.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) is part of a civil rights coalition that in May filed suit, alleging the law invites racial profiling and violates the U.S. Constitution. Nina Perales, MALDEF’s southwest regional counsel in San Antonio, had this to say: "Today's ruling guts the unconstitutional immigration scheme that Arizona wanted to establish. The judge's decision further shows that SB 1070 is an unconstitutional attempt by the State to take over the federal immigration system within Arizona's borders. States around the nation should take heed that any similar efforts will not succeed."

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