U.S. Files Lawsuit Against Arizona Immigration Law
The Department of Justice challenged the state of Arizona’s recently passed immigration law, S.B. 1070, in federal court on July 6, 2010. The Department has requested a preliminary injunction to enjoin enforcement of the law, arguing that the law’s operation will cause irreparable harm.
In a brief filed in the District of Arizona, the Department said S.B. 1070 unconstitutionally interferes with the federal government’s authority to set and enforce immigration policy, explaining that “the Constitution and federal law do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country.” Having enacted its own immigration policy that conflicts with federal immigration law, Arizona “crossed a constitutional line.”
The Department also argued that S.B. 1070 will place significant burdens on federal agencies, diverting their resources from high-priority targets. In addition, the Department expressed concerns that the law would result in the harassment and detention of foreign visitors and legal immigrants, as well as U.S. citizens, who cannot readily prove their lawful status.
In declarations filed with the brief, Arizona law enforcement officials, including the Chiefs of Police of Phoenix and Tucson, said that S.B. 1070 will hamper their ability to police their communities effectively. The chiefs said that victims of or witnesses to crimes would be less likely to contact or cooperate with law enforcement officials and that implementation of the law would require them to reassign officers from critical areas such as violent crimes, property crimes, and home invasions.
The Department said it filed the suit after extensive consultation with Arizona officials, law enforcement officers and groups, and civil rights advocates. The suit was filed on behalf of the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and State, which share responsibilities in administering federal immigration laws.
“Arizonans are understandably frustrated with illegal immigration, and the federal government has a responsibility to comprehensively address those concerns,” Attorney General Eric Holder commented. “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. Seeking to address the issue through a patchwork of state laws will only create more problems than it solves.”
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that when she was governor of Arizona, with the strong support of state and local law enforcement, she vetoed several similar pieces of legislation “because they would have diverted critical law enforcement resources from the most serious threats to public safety and undermined the vital trust between local jurisdictions and the communities they serve. We are actively working with members of Congress from both parties to comprehensively reform our immigration system at the federal level.” While this effort progresses, she said, the Department of Homeland Security “will continue to enforce the laws on the books by enhancing border security and removing criminal aliens from this country.”
The Department’s announcement is available online. Links to the complaint filed and other case documents are provided at the bottom of that page.