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Bar Association, Civil Liberty Groups Team Up to Challenge Arizona's Immigration Law

The American Bar Association on Thursday denounced Arizona's strict new immigration law as racist and unconstitutional as they joined a lawsuit seeking to derail implementation of the measure that is set to take effect at the end of this month.

The association is teaming up with the ACLU and a coalition of civil rights groups who filed a class-action lawsuit against Arizona in May, contending that the new law invites racial profiling, violates the First Amendment and interferes with federal law.

"While the ABA typically files amicus briefs only in the highest federal or state court that will consider a matter, the ABA believes the issues before this court are of such significance to the American people and the practice of law that they must be addressed at this stage of the proceedings," the association said in the brief.

The law makes illegal immigration a state crime and allows local law enforcement to question people about their immigration status and arrest them if they can't provide proper documentation. 

The association argued that if the law is implemented, it will promote racial profiling, lead to unlawful and unreasonable detentions and cause increased burdens and new obligations for the state's indigent defense system, courts and prosecutors.

Supporters of the law deny that it will lead to racial profiling and argue that Arizona is simply enforcing federal law.

But the federal government is also suing Arizona as President Obama presses lawmakers to pass a comprehensive immigration overhaul that includes a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country – a proposal that has killed prior attempts in Congress to revamp the system.