A U.S. Supreme Court ruling has cleared the way for a wave of bail hearings for immigrants across Arizona.
Hundreds of immigrants who have been denied bail under a strict Arizona law will now have the opportunity to be released.
The high court on Thursday kept intact a lower-court ruling that struck down the law passed in 2006 amid a series of immigration crackdowns in Arizona over the past decade.
The law denied bail to immigrants who are in the country illegally and have been charged with a range of felonies that include shoplifting, aggravated identity theft, sexual assault and murder.
As a result, immigrants spend months in jail and often simply plead guilty and get turned over to federal immigration authorities for deportation.
An 11-member panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the law last month, ruling that it violates due-process rights by imposing punishment before trial. The panel also said the law was a "scattershot attempt" at confronting people who flee from authorities and that there was no evidence the law dealt with a particularly critical problem.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Bill Montgomery defended the law before the courts. Montgomery's office estimates that hundreds of immigrants in metro Phoenix are now eligible for release under the decision, and prosecutors believe the action could overwhelm the court system and lead to defendants skipping bail and endangering the community.
"In the weeks ahead, we will endeavor to meet the challenge of responding to motions to review conditions of release that will now be filed as a consequence of the Ninth Circuit's callous rejection of legitimate state interests and the Supreme Court's disappointing indifference," Montgomery said in a statement.