Justice Department targets Arizona’s immigration law
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.”