DOJ files lawsuit against controversial Arizona immigration law

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice [official website] on Tuesday filed suit [complaint, PDF; supporting brief, PDF] in the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] seeking to permanently enjoin the state's controversial new immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive]. The complaint states that the law is preempted by federal law and therefore violates the Supremacy Clause [text] of the US Constitution. The DOJ argues that the Constitution and federal law "do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country." The agency also claims that the federal government has preeminent authority to regulate immigration matters and that the enforcement of the Arizona law is counterproductive to the national immigration policy.

S.B. 1070 pursues only one goal - "attrition" - and ignores the many other objectives that Congress has established for the federal immigration system. And even in pursuing attrition, S.B. 1070 disrupts federal enforcement priorities and resources that focus on aliens who pose a threat to national security or public safety. If allowed to go into effect, S.B. 1070's mandatory enforcement scheme will conflict with and undermine the federal government’s careful balance of immigration enforcement priorities and objectives. For example, it will impose significant and counterproductive burdens on the federal agencies charged with enforcing the national immigration scheme, diverting resources and attention from the dangerous aliens who the federal government targets as its top enforcement priority. It will cause the detention and harassment of authorized visitors, immigrants, and citizens who do not have or carry identification documents specified by the statute, or who otherwise will be swept into the ambit of S.B. 1070's "attrition through enforcement" approach. ... And it will interfere with vital foreign policy and national security interests by disrupting the United States' relationship with Mexico and other countries.
The suit was filed against the State of Arizona and Governor Jan Brewer (R) [official website], who previously responded to reports of a federal legal action [JURIST report] saying that the lawsuit would be "outrageous" and a waste of federal funds that would be better spent on national immigration reform. The legislation was signed into law [JURIST report] by Brewer in April and is set to take effect July 29.

The Arizona law criminalizes illegal immigration and requires police officers to question an individual's immigration status if the officer has a "reasonable suspicion" to believe an individual is in the country illegally. It has been widely criticized in regard to the law's constitutionality and alleged "legalization" of racial profiling. Last week, the American Bar Association (ABA) [official website] filed an amicus curiae brief [JURIST report] urging the federal district court in Arizona to block the enforcement of the state's immigration law. The brief was filed in support of a class-action lawsuit [JURIST report] led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website]. The Mexican government has also filed an amicus curiae brief [JURIST report] supporting the ACLU suit, claiming a substantial interest in ensuring its "bilateral diplomatic relations" with the US remain "transparent, consistent and reliable, and not frustrated by the actions of individual US states." The government also claims an interest in ensuring that its citizens are "accorded human and civil rights when present in the US in accordance with federal immigration law." Brewer is also currently facing federal lawsuits filed by the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders and several Tuscon police officers [JURIST reports], who claim they can not properly implement the law without racially profiling.

 

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