Judge ques­tions fed­eral ar­gu­ments against Ari­zona im­mi­gra­tion law

sides lay out cases as Jus­tice Depart­ment’s law­suit tries to stop state’s crack­down

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION - By Jerry Markon

PHOENIX — A fed­eral judge pushed back Thurs­day against a con­tention by the Jus­tice Depart­ment that a tough new Ari­zona im­mi­gra­tion law set to take ef­fect next week would cause “ir­repara­ble harm” and in­trude into fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment.

“Why can’t Ari­zona be as in­hos­pitable as they wish to peo­ple who have en­tered or re­mained in the United States?” U.S. District Judge Su- san Bolton asked in a pointed ex­change with Deputy So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral Ed­win Kneedler. Her com­ment came dur­ing a fed­eral court hear­ing in the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s law­suit against Ari­zona and Gov. Jan Brewer in an ef­fort to keep the law from tak­ing ef­fect as sched­uled on July 29.

Bolton, a Demo­cratic ap­pointee, also ques­tioned a core part of the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s ar­gu­ment that she should declare the law un­con­sti­tu­tional: that it is “pre-empted” by fed­eral law be­cause im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment is an ex­clu­sive fed­eral pre­rog­a­tive.

“How is there a pre-emp­tion is­sue?” the judge asked. “Where is the pre-emp­tion if ev­ery­body who is ar­rested for some crime has their im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus checked?”

At is­sue in Thurs­day’s hear­ing was whether Bolton would grant a pre­lim­i­nary in­junc­tion to stop the law from tak­ing ef­fect while the fed­eral law­suit pro­ceeds.

As dozens of pro­test­ers marched out­side, the hear­ing marked the first round in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­fort to stop the state’s crack­down on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. Seven op­po­nents of the law were ar­rested af­ter they sat in the mid­dle of a busy thor­ough­fare out­side the courthouse and un­furled a mas­sive ban­ner that said “We will not com­ply.”

“The reg­u­la­tion of im­mi­gra­tion is un­ques­tion­ably, ex­clu­sively, a fed­eral power,” Kneedler told a rapt court­room.

Brewer, whose fierce crit­i­cism of the fed­eral law­suit has helped her pop­u­lar­ity at home, watched silently from the front row, draw­ing a “Good af­ter­noon, Gover­nor” from the judge.

Lawyers for Brewer ar­gued with equal force that the leg­is­la­tion is a le­gal ex­pres­sion of a sov­er­eign state’s right to se­cure its bor­ders against a tide of il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. The fed­eral govern­ment, the lawyers said, has failed to act.

“We keep hear­ing that we can’t re­ally do any­thing about these il­le­gal aliens — Ari­zona should just deal with it,” said John Bouma, Ari­zona’s lead at­tor­ney. “Well, the sta­tus quo is sim­ply un­ac­cept­able.”

The law, which Brewer signed in April, em­pow­ers po­lice to ques­tion peo­ple they have a “rea­son­able sus­pi­cion” are il­le­gal im­mi­grants and to send them to fed­eral au­thor­i­ties for pos­si­ble de­por­ta­tion.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama has strongly con­demned the law, and the Jus­tice Depart­ment filed suit July 6, set­ting up an un­usual clash be­tween the fed­eral govern­ment and a state over who should en­force the nation’s im­mi­gra­tion laws.

Ross D. Franklin

Fran­cisco Gar­cia prays with pro­test­ers who op­pose Ari­zona’s im­mi­gra­tion law Thurs­day in front of U.S. District Court in Phoenix.

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