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DOJ Debates Arizona Immigration Law in Court

Arizona Judge Susan Bolton heard arguments from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the state of Arizona on Thursday, as the two debated the legality of Arizona’s new immigration law. Government lawyers are seeking an injunction to prevent the law from taking effect, while attorneys defending Arizona and the state’s Governor, Jan Brewer, are requesting the case be dismissed and the law enforced as planned, reports ABC News. The law, which allows law enforcement officials in Arizona to request proof of legal immigration, residency, or citizenship of anyone they suspect might be an illegal immigrant, is scheduled to take effect this Thursday. According to the Justice Department, Arizona’s immigration law infringes upon the federal government’s right to solely enforce immigration laws – putting Arizona in violation of the US Constitution’s supremacy clause. The DOJ expressed concern that by implementing the law, Arizona would be establishing and enforcing its own immigration policy, reports the New York Times. The federal government also argued that Arizona’s law did not take into account the nation’s larger foreign policy goals with Mexico. According to ABC News, the DOJ said in its brief, “Arizona’s immigration policy exceeds a state’s role with respect to aliens, interferes with the federal government’s balanced administration of the immigration laws, and critically undermines US foreign policy objectives.” Attorneys representing Arizona and Governor Brewer responded and argued that the state law is meant to compliment federal law, not change or overpower it. Brewer’s lawyers said in their court briefs, “It is [the Obama administration] that is attempting to impose immigration policies and priorities that contravene and conflict with federal law and unambiguous congressional intent,” reports ABC News. Governor Brewer has publicly defended the policy, saying in a statement, “The federal government will suffer no harm if [the law] is implemented because the act requires only that Arizona’s law enforcement officers act in accordance with their constitutional authority and congressionally established federal policy.” According to the New York Times, it is unlikely Judge Bolton will strike down the law in its entirety, but instead will likely rule on whether “certain parts of the law are pre-empted by federal law.” During the hearing, Bolton questioned the federal government’s counsel and asked, “How does it become immigration enforcement policy? It’s an immigration status check,” she continued, “Arizona cannot remove anybody, and they don’t purport they can.” Earlier on Thursday, Judge Bolton also heard arguments in a separate case from civil rights groups challenging the law. According to the Associated Press, seven different cases have been brought against the state of Arizona by groups opposing the new law – including the Justice Department, civil rights groups, and two Arizona police officers.

Sources:

ABC News 7/22/10; New York Times 7/22/10; Associated Press 7/23/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 5/18/10