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Arizona Regains Footing in Legal Battle Over Immigration Law

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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer speaks to reporters outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010. (AP)

After suffering a major legal setback in the summer, Arizona regained its footing in court Friday when a federal judge dismissed parts of the U.S.  Justice Department's challenge to the state's new immigration law and rejected several claims made by Hispanic activists and Phoenix police officers.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton's ruling on Friday struck down the federal government's challenge to the portion of the law that prohibits the transport of illegal immigrants. 

It also rejected a challenge from Phoenix police officers and an advocacy group called Chicanos Por La Causa who argued that the cops could be sued for racial profiling if they enforced the law or lose their jobs if they didn't.

Bolton agreed with Arizona that they had no valid claim of immediate harm.

Bolton also dismissed a lawsuit from the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders who were seeking an injunction preventing authorities from enforcing the law because the group argued federal law pre-empts state regulation of national borders.

"I am pleased with today's decision," Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said in a statement Friday. "I strongly believe that the citizens of Arizona will ultimately prevail in all of these legal challenges. My defense of the rule of law will continue as vigorously as ever."

Arizona's law has been at the center of an impassioned national debate on illegal immigration ever since it was passed in April. The federal government filed a lawsuit soon after to block the measure -- a battle that is ongoing and is likely to wind up in the Supreme Court.

The law makes illegal immigration a state crime and requires police to check the immigration status of anyone they stop if they suspect they are in the state unlawfully.

Bolton's ruling didn't have any effect on the portions of the law that she previously prevented from taking effect, including a requirement that immigrants get or carry immigration registration papers.

In that ruling in July, Bolton let other portions take effect, including a ban on obstructing traffic while seeking or offering day-labor services on public streets.

Bolton on Friday denied Brewer's request to dismiss challenges to the law's most controversial sections.