Saturday, November 12, 2011

Feds ask SCOTUS not to hear the appeal of Arizona against the blocking of its laws

The U.S. Justice Department asked the Supreme Court Thursday to leave be a lawsuit involving Arizona's controversial immigration law, claiming that lower courts have already blocked tough provisions targeting undocumented immigrants.

The state law is a challenge to federal policy and is designed to establish Arizona's own immigration policy, the department's solicitor general said in a filing with the justices. Arizona says the law is an effort to cooperate with the federal government.

One provision requires that police, while enforcing other laws, question a person's immigration status if officers suspect they are in the country illegally. In April, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a federal judge's ruling halting enforcement of that and other key provisions in the Arizona law.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is seeking to overturn the judge's decision and wants Supreme Court review of the case, arguing that the issues are of compelling, nationwide importance.


Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer wants the Supreme Court to review a lower court ruling that halted some key provisions in the immigration law.

The Justice Department disagreed.

"That several states have recently adopted new laws in this important area is not a sufficient reason for this court to grant review" of the first appeals court decision affirming a judge's preliminary ruling against part of one of those state laws, Justice told the high court.

The Arizona law has been followed by others, including Alabama, where lawmakers enacted a requirement that schools check students' immigration status. That provision has been blocked temporarily.

The Justice Department, about 30 civil rights organizations and prominent church leaders are challenging Alabama's law. Still standing there are provisions that allow police to check a person's immigration status during traffic stops and make it a felony for illegal immigrants to conduct basic state business, like getting a driver's license.

Last week, the federal government sued South Carolina in an effort to stop the state's tough new immigration law. The South Carolina law requires that officers call federal immigration officials if they suspect someone is in the country illegally following a traffic stop for something else.


British border checks relaxed in second rule change

Thousands of people have entered Britain without facing routine passport checks on arrival under a second change in border rules approved by Theresa May.

Since last year, the UK Border Agency has been operating a system at four major airports that means passengers on some flights are security-screened before take-off and then face a “light touch” inspection on arrival.

The “smart zone” trial has come to light as the Home Secretary faces continued criticism over a separate, secret move to relax passport checks at all airports over the summer.

The smart zone system allows passengers on selected flights to enter the UK with reduced passport checks and pass through the airport in half the time normally taken.

The system, which has been quietly piloted at some UK airports over the past year, is part of a wider move towards “risk-based” controls that ministers believe can focus border resources on suspicious travellers.

Insiders say such schemes are effectively paving the way for a full-blown profiling system where passengers are subjected to different levels of scrutiny depending on nationality or race.

The smart zone system relies on pre-screening of passengers on “low-risk” routes into the UK and effectively does away with routine passport inspection on arrival in Britain. Smart zone trials have taken place at Luton, Gatwick, Birmingham and Leeds/Bradford airports. Further tests are planned for Bristol, Liverpool and Manchester. Some coach parties arriving by ferry at Calais have also been allowed to use the scheme.

A UK Border Agency report makes clear that the move means an end to the routine processing of passports and other travel documents for selected flights.

“Smart zone allows us to pre-check people on low-risk routes and, therefore, to provide a faster, lighter-touch, screening of passengers at the port,” the agency said. “This is better for passengers and allows us to use our staff’s expertise at spotting the unknown risk, rather than routinely processing documents.”

Damian Green, the immigration minister, confirmed the smart zone trials in a recent parliamentary answer.

UKBA is reviewing its operating processes at ports to make the best use of technology, he said. “Smart zones are one part of this and operate by using information gathered through the e-Borders system to conduct enhanced watch-list checks in advance of arrival.

“Passengers are then directed through a designated smart zone where the appropriate level of checks can be made on arrival. This has the potential to remove duplication of detailed checks at the border, thereby improving the passenger experience while simultaneously maintaining border security.”

The e-Borders system is a programme to collect electronic records of everyone who enters and leaves the country.

A Home Office evaluation of the smart zone scheme is due next month. Whitehall officials said that feedback from UKBA staff, airlines and passengers so far has been positive.

Mrs May this week faced calls for her resignation over separate relaxations in passport controls over the summer.

She has accused Brodie Clark, a former senior UKBA official, of defying her orders to relax checks on non-European passports. Mr Clark quit this week and accused Mrs May of misleading the public about his actions. He will give evidence to MPs next week which could put Mrs May under renewed pressure.

Labour MPs have accused Mrs May of treating Mr Clark unfairly. Simon Danczuk, a Labour MP, yesterday asked Sir Gus O’Donnell, the head of the Civil Service, to investigate the conduct of Mrs May’s aides in relation to Mr Brodie.


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