Josh Gerstein at Politico:
The federal government filed a lawsuit Tuesday aimed at blocking a controversial Arizona law that instructs local police and sheriffs to question and arrest anyone whom they suspect is in the country illegally.
The Justice Department lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, argues that the new state law violates the U.S. Constitution by usurping federal authority over immigration policy, traditionally the jurisdiction of the federal government.
“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 yesterday. “But diverting federal resources away from dangerous aliens such as terrorism suspects and aliens with criminal records will impact the entire country’s safety.
“Setting immigration policy and enforcing immigration laws is a national responsibility,” Holder said. “Seeking to address the issue through a patchwork of state laws will only create more problems than it solves.”
“In our constitutional system, the federal government has preeminent authority to regulate immigration matters. This authority derives from the United States Constitution and numerous acts of Congress,” reads the introduction to the 25-page complaint (PDF).
Lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice filed the complaint today in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. The lawsuit names as defendants the state of Arizona and Gov. Janice Brewer (R), in her official capacity.
Brewer has repeatedly defended the law as a necessary response to the federal government’s failure to control illegal immigration from Mexico, and she continued to draw support from allies nationwide, including in Washington, as the lawsuit was filed.
The lawsuit makes sweeping claims about the federal government’s power to develop immigration policy. It cites the federal government’s power under the Constitution to establish a “uniform Rule of Naturalization” — translating, it says, to the regulation of aliens within U.S. boundaries and to the terms and conditions for entry and continued presence.
With the State Department joining as a plaintiff, the lawsuit also cites the president’s authority over foreign affairs. “Immigration law, policy, and enforcement priorities are affected by and have impacts on U.S. foreign policy, and are themselves the subject of diplomatic arrangements,” it says.
Together with the complaint, the department is filing a 58-page motion (PDF) for a preliminary injunction. The law is scheduled to go into effect July 29.
Here is a copy of the Complaint just filed by the United States against Arizona seeking to invalidate S.B 1070, the Arizona immigration bill. Copies also of the Civil Cover Sheet, Summons to the the State of Arizona, and Summons to Gov. Jan Brewer.
The case is assigned to Judge Neil V. Wake.
It seems rather clear that the DoJ intended to get state and local law enforcement involved in immigration efforts. Arizona’s law doesn’t set up the state as an adjudicator of the complaints, but merely requires police to check status and refer suspects to ICE when circumstances warrant. It doesn’t violate federal prerogative at all, but instead forces the federal government to act responsibly to enforce the law.
Besides, this issue of pre-emption works the other direction. Does this mean that state and local police have no jurisdiction to enforce federal drug laws if they don’t violate state or local law? Terrorism? Wire fraud? If a court rules that referrals to federal agencies from state and local law enforcement are unconstitutional on the basis of pre-emption, it will make the Gorelick Wall look like a curb.
Furthermore, this is weak tea compared to the Obama administration’s rhetoric on the subject. They have spent the last three months declaring this unconstitutional on the basis of discrimination. If that were true, the government would have made that its primary argument. The fact that they’re going with pre-emption means that they’re conceding that the discrimination argument never held water — and that their accusations of bigotry against Arizonans were nothing more than demagoguery.
Mary Katherine Ham at The Weekly Standard:
Perhaps it’s a better legal argument than a political one, but the federal government does seem to be opening quite the can of worms to argue that a state-level attempt to do what the federal government claims is its sole responsibility is uncalled for while that same government is spending time and energy suing Arizona while it continues to not live up to its responsibility.
Jim Antle at The American Spectator:
It is precisely the federal government’s failure to enforce its own immigration laws — and their incomplete border fencing that has redirected illegal immigrants to Arizona specifically — that would account for such referrals. Federal action would have made the Arizona law unnecessary But the Obama-led feds would rather crack down on Arizona than illegal immigration.