By JACQUES BILLEAUD
PHOENIX (AP) - Federal authorities have asked an appeals court to reject Arizona's bid to overturn a ruling that bars enforcement of a minor section of the state's 2010 immigration law prohibiting the harboring of illegal immigrants.
The U.S. Justice Department told the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in a Dec. 27 filing that Arizona's harboring ban is trumped by the federal government's broad immigration powers and that federal law already prohibits people from harboring illegal immigrants within the United States.
"It is the national government that has ultimate authority to regulate the treatment of aliens while on American soil because it is the nation as a whole, and not any single state, that must respond to the international consequences of such treatment," Justice Department lawyers said in a friend-of-the-court brief.
The federal government, which filed a lawsuit in 2010 challenging the law, filed the brief as part of a separate challenge mounted by a coalition of civil rights groups.
The harboring ban was in effect from late July 2010 until U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton blocked its enforcement on Sept. 5 as part of civil rights coalition's challenge. Two weeks before shelving the ban, Bolton said she knew of no arrests that were made under the provision.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed the measure known as SB1070 into law and serves as the statute's chief defender, has asked the appeals court to reverse Bolton's ruling. Her office did not respond to requests for comment this week.
Brewer's lawyers have told the appeals court that the harboring ban was passed to confront crime in Arizona, doesn't conflict with federal policies and that the civil rights coalition hasn't shown it has legal standing to challenge the ban.
The harboring prohibition has been overshadowed by other parts of the law, including a requirement that went into effect on Sept. 18 that officers, while enforcing other laws, question the immigration status of those suspected of being in the country illegally.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the questioning requirement earlier this year but also struck down other sections of the law, such as a requirement that immigrants obtain or carry immigration registration papers. The nation's highest court didn't consider the harboring ban.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.