TODAY   |  July 29, 2010

Judge blocks parts of Ariz. immigration law

A last-minute ruling by a federal judge delayed the most controversial provisions, including the right for police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being in the U.S. illegally. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: But let's begin with serious news, a federal judge 's decision to strike down the highly controversial parts of Arizona 's immigration law . NBC 's justice correspondent Pete Williams has the very latest. Good morning to you, Pete .

PETE WILLIAMS reporting: Good morning, Meredith . The judge did leave some parts of that law intact, but she said Arizona could not go ahead with what police statewide were preparing to start doing this morning, stepping up checks for illegal immigrants. Immigrant groups cheered the ruling, calling it a victory for civil rights. It blocked a state law due to go into effect this morning that required police making arrests or traffic stops to check the immigration status of anyone they suspected was here illegally. Those arrested were to be held until their legal status was verified. In an exclusive interview with NBC 's Ann Curry , Vice President Joe Biden said the ruling sends the right message.

Vice President JOE BIDEN: We don't think you can have 50 different immigration laws out there. We don't think you can have -- I think it actually is damaging rather than helps enforcing our immigration laws .

WILLIAMS: Judge Susan Bolton ruled that the Arizona law would interfere with federal immigration law , which states are not allowed to do. She said it would require police to do so many more checks on people suspected of being here illegally that it would overwhelm the federal government , diverting attention from catching criminals or potential terrorists. The judge also said it would lead to detention for people who are here legally, including US citizens, while their immigration status was checked. Arizona 's governor, Jan Brewer , vowed to appeal and said the legal fight is far from over.

Governor JAN BREWER: It obviously is a little bump in the road, I believe.

WILLIAMS: But legal scholars say given that the law has yet to be enforced, the state probably will not get quick legal results.

Professor STEPHEN VLADECK (American University Law School): The fact that the injunction preserves the status quo means that we won't see any immediacy to this. I think we won't see Arizona , at least, having a strong argument that this has to be resolved overnight.

WILLIAMS: For now, even though the law requiring checks for illegal immigrants is on hold, some Arizona officials say police can still do those checks voluntarily.

Sheriff JOE ARPAIO (Maricopa County, Arizona): We arrest people every day for all types of violations, and if they're here illegally we're going to take action. So really, nothing has changed.

WILLIAMS: The state's next stop is the Federal Court of Appeals in San Francisco , probably later today. And whoever loses there will almost certainly urge the US Supreme Court to get involved, Meredith .

VIEIRA: All right, Pete Williams , thank you very much . It is 7:04, and here's Matt.

MATT LAUER, co-host: All right, Meredith , thank you.