The Department of Justice (DOJ) sued Arizona over immigration law SB 1070, arguing it interferes with the federal government setting and enforcing immigration policy.
The long anticipated suit seeks to prevent the law from going into effect July 29, 2010. The lawsuit argues “the federal government has preeminent authority to regulate immigration matters.”
The Arizona law sought to avoid this conflict with federal authority over immigration by extending federal immigration law to the state level, making violating federal immigration a state trespassing offense, rather than legislating new or different state laws.
In a statement released Tuesday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said Arizona’s law substantially reflects what has been federal law in the United States for many decades. She said Arizona’s law is written to “complement, not supplant, enforcement of federal immigration laws.”
According to the American Immigration Council, the precedent is not in Arizona’s favor. Many states and cities that have passed anti-immigrant legislation have later revoked their laws or had them struck down.
The Council’s Legal Action Center has compiled a list of such lawsuits, available at their website www.legalactioncenter.org.
The government’s case further argues that Arizona’s law focuses exclusively on attrition or reducing the number of illegal immigrants, whereas Congress has mandated that federal immigration policy objectives include humanitarian concerns and foreign policy considerations. In this aspect, Arizona’s law would interfere with federal immigration policy goals.
The new law will burden federal agencies with counterproductive work, claims the Justice Dept. suit, “diverting resources and attention from the dangerous aliens who the federal government targets as its top enforcement priority.”
One Arizona Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) employee was unsure that would be the case. Speaking anonymously, the employee said it’s hard to know how the law will impact their office.
At this point the office does not know the size of the pool of unknown illegal immigrants, so it is hard speculate if they will be overwhelmed or not.
The employee further explained that if ICE is overwhelmed by local police requests, ICE has set priority cases, and may just have to ignore some police requests to pick up an illegal immigrant.
Roberto Villasenor, Tucson Police Chief, submitted a statement along with the suit that said Arizona is pushing a federal responsibility on to local law enforcement without funding the mandate.
In his statement he said investigating, preventing, and solving serious and violent crimes are the department’s priorities and that “it is absolutely essential to the success of our mission that we have the cooperation and support of all members of our community, whether they are here lawfully or not.”
Governor Brewer said Arizona passed the legislation because of “failed and inconsistent federal enforcement” of immigration policy. “Arizona is under attack from violent Mexican drug and immigrant smuggling cartels. Now, Arizona is under attack in federal court from President Obama and his Department of Justice,” she said.
Filed along with the DOJ complaint are several supporting letters from key immigration and law enforcement actors. Officials include Daniel Ragsdale of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; David Aguilar, a deputy commissioner with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor; Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris; and several others.