As long expected, the Justice Department has filed a federal lawsuit aimed at Arizona, saying that the state's new immigration law (SB 1070) is unconstitutional and usurps the U.S. government's role in setting immigration policy. The law would allow authorities to demand proof of legal status from anyone suspected of being in the U.S. illegally, and if that were proved to be the case, they would be deported.
Attorney General Eric Holder had this to say in today's news release:
Setting immigration policy and enforcing immigration laws is a national responsibility. Seeking to address the issue through a patchwork of state laws will only create more problems than it solves.
The action was welcomed by groups such as the National Immigration Law Center, whose general counsel, Linton Joaquin, released a statement that read in part:
States planning to follow in Arizona's misguided footsteps should take note: the United States cannot and should not allow immigrants and communities of color to be targets of hateful racial profiling legislation that puts their civil liberties on the line.
The complaint can be read in full here.
The law, passed by the Arizona state legislature in April, was scheduled to go into effect at the end of the month. BLT, the blog of Legal Times, notes that Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has consistently defended the law "as a necessary response to the federal government's failure to control illegal immigration from Mexico, and she continued to draw support from allies nationwide, including in Washington, as the lawsuit was filed."
The law's opponents claim it will lead to widespread racial profiling; supporters say that is not the case.
Arizona's two Republican senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl, issued a joint statement that condemned the administration's action:
The American people must wonder whether the Obama administration is really committed to securing the border when it sues a state that is simply trying to protect its people by enforcing immigration law.
In addition, 20 GOP members of the House sent a letter to Holder expressing their "disappointment and serious concerns" about the DoJ action. (The 20: Lamar Smith & John Carter (TX), Steve King (IA), Trent Franks (AZ), Ed Royce, Elton Gallegly, Darrell Issa, Brian Bilbray, Gary Miller, Buck McKeon & Dana Rohrabacher (CA), Todd Tiahrt (KS), Sue Myrick (NC), Marsha Blackburn (TN), Dan Burton (IN), Jim Sensenbrenner (WI), Gregg Harper (MS), Jeff Miller (FL), Jason Chaffetz (UT) and Peter King (NY).)
But it's not only Republicans who are upset. Rep. Harry Mitchell, an Arizona Democrat, saying he was "extremely disappointed," found fault with the Justice Dept.'s action.
This is the wrong direction to go. I urged President Obama and his administration against doing so because I strongly believe their time, efforts and resources should be focused on securing our border and fixing our broken immigration system. Arizona needs Washington to take action, but a lawsuit is definitely not the kind of action we need.
Illegal immigration didn't occur overnight, and the situation cannot wait simply because folks choose to play politics. Illegal immigration affects our state more than it does any other — more than half of all illegal crossings over the U.S.-Mexico border happen in Arizona. The federal government has a responsibility to secure the border and fix our broken immigration system, but hasn't done so, and Arizona continues to shoulder the burden.
Other Arizona Dems, such as Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick and Gabrielle Giffords, have not been happy with the Obama administration's response to the Arizona law. Kirkpatrick said, "As any politician knows, it is easier to make speeches than it is to make progress, and we need more than talk from the White House and Congress right now."