Jus­tice Depart­ment tar­gets Ari­zona’s im­mi­gra­tion law

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Jerry Markon and Wil­liam Brani­gin

WASHINGTON — The Jus­tice Depart­ment filed suit Tues­day against Ari­zona, charg­ing that the state’s new im­mi­gra­tion law is un­con­sti­tu­tional and re­quest­ing a pre­lim­i­nary in­junc­tion to stop the leg­is­la­tion from tak­ing ef­fect this month as planned.

The law­suit says the law il­le­gally in­trudes on fed­eral pre­rog­a­tives, in­vok­ing as its main ar­gu­ment the le­gal doc­trine of “pre-emp­tion,” which is based on the Con­sti­tu­tion’s supremacy clause and says that fed­eral law trumps state statutes. The Jus­tice Depart­ment ar­gues that en­forc­ing im­mi­gra­tion laws is a fed­eral re­spon­si­bil­ity and says an in­junc­tion is needed to pre­vent “ir­repara­ble harm” to the United States.

The fil­ing also as­serts that the Ari­zona law would harm peo­ple’s civil rights, lead­ing to po­lice ha­rass­ment of U.S. cit­i­zens and for­eign­ers. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama has warned that the law could vi­o­late cit­i­zens’ civil rights, and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric Holder has expressed con­cern that it

Con­tin­ued from A could drive a wedge be­tween po­lice and im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties.

“Ari­zona im­per­mis­si­bly seeks to reg­u­late im­mi­gra­tion by cre­at­ing an Ari­zonaspe­cific im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy that is ex­pressly de­signed to ri­val or sup­plant that of the fed­eral govern­ment,” the Jus­tice Depart­ment says in its le­gal brief. “As such, Ari­zona’s im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy ex­ceeds a state’s role with re­spect to aliens, in­ter­feres with the fed­eral govern­ment’s bal­anced ad­min­is­tra­tion of the im­mi­gra­tion laws, and crit­i­cally un­der­mines U.S. for­eign pol­icy ob­jec­tives.”

It adds that the law “does not sim­ply seek to pro­vide le­git­i­mate sup­port to the fed­eral govern­ment’s im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, but in­stead cre­ates an un­prece­dented in­de­pen­dent im­mi­gra­tion scheme that ex­ceeds con­sti­tu­tional bound­aries.”

The Jus­tice Depart­ment ar­gues that the law would bur­den fed­eral agen­cies, di­vert­ing re­sources away from the pur­suit of sus­pects in ter­ror­ism, drug smug­gling, gang ac­tiv­ity and other crimes to cope with a flood of il­le­gal im­mi­grants who pose no dan­ger.

But Repub­li­can law­mak­ers, state of­fi­cials and de­fend­ers of the Ari­zona law promptly con- demned the law­suit.

Ari­zona Repub­li­can Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl is­sued a joint state­ment say­ing it was “far too pre­ma­ture” for the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to chal­lenge the law be­cause it hasn’t yet been en­forced. It is set to take ef­fect July 29.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he was dis­ap­pointed that the ad­min­is­tra­tion made the Ari­zona law­suit a pri­or­ity.

“The White House must fo­cus on get­ting the fed­eral govern­ment to do its job, which means se­cur­ing our border and propos­ing spe­cific re­forms to our bro­ken im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem,” Cornyn said.

“An Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion law­suit against the peo­ple of the state of Ari­zona re­flects the height of ir­re­spon­si­bil­ity and ar­ro­gance,” said Rep. La­mar Smith, R-San An­to­nio, the top Repub­li­can on the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee.

But Rep. Char­lie Gon­za­lez, D-San An­to­nio, who leads the His­panic Cau­cus task force on civil rights, said, “What Ari­zona should be do­ing in­stead of en­act­ing in­ef­fec­tual and mis­guided laws is to en­cour­age its con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion to fully sup­port a mean­ing­ful so­lu­tion, which hap­pens to be com­pre­hen­sive re­form of our im­mi­gra­tion laws.”

Ari­zona Gov. Jan Brewer de­rided Obama’s in­ter­ven­tion as “noth­ing more than a mas­sive waste of tax­payer funds.”

“The truth is the Ari­zona law is both rea­son­able and con­sti­tu­tional,” she said, pledg­ing to de­fend the mea­sure in court. “Ari­zona’s law is de­signed to com­ple­ment, not sup­plant, en­force­ment of fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion laws.”

Amid fall­out from the law, Brewer’s state was to host this year’s an­nual con­fer­ence of U.S. and Mex­ico border gov­er­nors.

Af­ter all six Mex­i­can border gov­er­nors said they in­tended to boy­cott the gath­er­ing to protest the new law, Brewer sent a let­ter last week to gov­er­nors on both sides of the border say­ing she was can­cel­ing the con­fer­ence.

But New Mex­ico Gov. Bill Richardson stepped into the fray, pledg­ing to sal­vage the con­fer­ence by find­ing a site in an­other state.

“Gov. Brewer doesn’t have the author­ity to can­cel the Border Gov­er­nors Con­fer­ence,” said Gil­bert Gallegos, a spokesman for Richardson. “She may not want to host it for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons, but that’s not a rea­son to side­step the tough is­sues that border gov­er­nors must ad­dress, in­clud­ing mi­gra­tion and border vi­o­lence.”

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