People protesting for immigration reform during a rally in Washington D.C.
Latin America: Week in Review, United States

Obama Administration Files Lawsuit Against Arizona’s Immigration Law

July 7, 2010 By Staff
People protesting for immigration reform during a rally in Washington D.C.

People protesting for immigration reform during a rally in Washington D.C.

Today in Latin America

Top Story — The Department of Justice Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Arizona arguing that the state’s new immigration law undermines federal government’s work to pursue terrorists, gang members and other criminal immigrants.

The lawsuit, which has been talked about since June, says that Arizona’s law usurps powers to control immigration that is reserved for federal authorities. The suit also adds to another one brought against the state by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund as well as other civil rights groups.

The Arizona law, called the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, requires police officers to check the immigration status of people they stop, if there is reason to suspect that they are undocumented immigrants. The law also restricts the hiring or transportation of day laborers, and allows for lawsuits against government agencies not enforcing immigration laws.

“Arizonans are understandably frustrated with illegal immigration,” said Attorney General Eric Holder, according to the New York Times. “But diverting federal resources away from dangerous aliens such as terrorism suspects and aliens with criminal records will impact the entire country’s safety.”

The lawsuit is expected to create a battle in the Supreme Court over state versus federal power. While federal courts typically favor giving the federal government wider room to regulate matters regarding immigration, recently courts have also allowed state laws that rely on federal laws.

Legal experts have pointed out that the language of the Arizona law that is a weak point is that it makes unlawful presence in the country a state crime.

“I think the federal government is going to win and the Arizona law is going to be shown to be unconstitutional,” said Karl M. Manheim, professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Arizona law also caused the cancellation of the 28th annual conference between governors from U.S.-Mexico border states. All six Mexican border governors wrote to Arizona governor Jan Brewer, whose state was to host this year’s conference, saying that they were boycotting the conference.

Brewer responded last week to governors on both sides of the border saying she had cancelled the conference.

“I am disappointed by your decision,” Brewer said in a letter, according to the New York Times. “I sincerely believe the gathering of the governors in Arizona would have presented a great platform to initiate dialogue about the legislation and other topics of great importance to the border region.”

Just Published at the Latin America News Dispatch

  • For a more in depth analysis of the U.S. government’s lawsuit against Arizona, read Alison Bowen’s blog, Beyond Borders.

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