Department of Justice sues Arizona over immigration law
The Department of Justice
announced Tuesday it is suing Arizona over its controversial immigration law,
saying it conflicts with federal statutes.
In its complaint, the department
said that it is seeking a preliminary injunction that would delay the July 29
implementation of the law pending the result of the case. The federal
government is also seeking to quash the law on a permanent basis.
court complaint claims the law threatens the federal government’s
responsibility to create immigration policy, saying that it is an attempt to
create “local” immigration standards.
“Although states may exercise
their police power in a manner that has an incidental or indirect effect
on aliens, a state may not establish its own immigration policy or enforce
state laws in a manner that interferes with the federal immigration laws,”
the complaint reads. “The Constitution and the federal immigration laws do not
permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration
policies throughout the country.”
The lawsuit, filed in Arizona federal court, is likely to fan
the flames of a political firestorm already surrounding the controversial law.
The measure requires state law enforcement to check the identification of
people they suspect are in the country illegally, if they are stopped for
President Barack Obama
criticized the law after its passage in late April, calling it “misguided” and
saying that it could lead to ethnic profiling. Observers have long speculated
the administration would file suit to stop the law.
The measure also sparked a
debate over the nation’s immigration policy in Congress. House Democrats have
pressured congressional leaders and the White House to get behind a
comprehensive immigration bill that includes a path to citizenship. They say
the Arizona law is a wake-up call to reform national immigration laws.
But many Republicans have
said that the law is justified, saying the federal government has abdicated its
responsibility to secure the southern border in response to a rash of
drug-cartel related violence there.
Arizona Sens. John McCain (R)
and Jon Kyl (R) both criticized
the lawsuit before it became official.
“Attorney General [Eric]
Holder speaks of the ‘federal government’s responsibility’ to enforce
immigration laws; but what are the people of Arizona left to do when the
federal government fails in its responsibility?” the two Arizona Republicans
asked in a joint statement.
But the Department of Justice
said the suit was filed after close consultation with Arizona officials, law
enforcement and civil rights groups. The suit was filed on behalf of the departments
of Justice, State and Homeland Security, which all oversee immigration policy.
“Arizonans are understandably frustrated with illegal
immigration, and the federal government has a responsibility to comprehensively
address those concerns,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. “But
diverting federal resources away from dangerous aliens such as terrorism
suspects and aliens with criminal records will impact the entire country’s