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Prosecutor Montgomery urges judge to let smuggling law stand

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery (Cronkite News Service Photo by Christina Silvestri)

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery (Cronkite News Service Photo by Christina Silvestri)

The top county prosecutor in metropolitan Phoenix is urging a judge to reject the Obama administration’s request to throw out Arizona’s law banning immigrant smuggling.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery’s office has filed a friend-of-the-court brief saying the 2005 state law isn’t trumped by federal statutes. Gov. Jan Brewer also has opposed the request.

The administration made the request to block the smuggling law as part of its challenge of Arizona’s broader 2010 immigration enforcement law, which made a minor change to the 2005 statute.

The dispute over the smuggling law is all that remains of the administration’s challenge of the 2010 law.

The Obama administration says the 2005 law should be struck down because it’s trumped by a similar federal law.

Immigrant rights advocates complained that the law that was intended to target smugglers had been misused because authorities were using it to also arrest the customers of smugglers.

A year ago, a judge prohibited Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and county prosecutors from charging immigrants who paid to be sneaked into the country with conspiring to smuggle themselves, ruling that the policy criminalizes actions that the federal law treats as a civil matter.

County officials agreed to drop their appeal of that ruling. 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