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The United States of America v. Arizona


On July 6, 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona against the State of Arizona and Governor Janice Brewer in her official capacity.  The lawsuit claims that Arizona’s state immigration law, S.B. 1070, unconstitutionally interferes with the federal government’s ability to regulate immigration. In its press release about the suit, the DOJ has stated that “a patchwork of state and local policies would seriously disrupt federal immigration enforcement.  Having enacted its own immigration policy that conflicts with federal immigration law, Arizona ‘crossed a constitutional line.’” The suit was filed on behalf of the DOJ, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of State (DOS), which share responsibility over the nation’s immigration laws.

Arizona’s S.B. 1070 has caused significant controversy since being enacted on April 23, 2010. The law makes the failure to carry immigration documents a crime. It also gives the police power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. The law has received criticism that it gives police the power to engage in racial profiling, particularly against the many Hispanics residing in Arizona. In fact, S.B. 1070 was immediately criticized by the Obama administration in April, and this suit marks yet another step in the federal government’s fight against the patchwork of state-enacted immigration laws popping up around the country.

Leading up to the suit, the DOJ consulted with Arizona officials, law enforcement officers and groups, and civil rights advocates to gain a full picture of how the law is affecting both citizens and aliens alike in Arizona.  In fact, the law suit is supported by Arizona law enforcement officials, including the Chiefs of Police of Phoenix and Tucson, who filed declarations with the lawsuit stating that S.B. 1070 will hamper their ability to effectively police their communities.  The DOJ has stated that “Arizona impermissibly seeks to regulate immigration by creating an Arizona-specific immigration policy that is expressly designed to rival or supplant that of the federal government.  As such, 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 U.S. foreign policy objectives.”

The DOJ has asked for a preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of the suit based upon irreparable harm caused by the law’s operation. The case has been assigned to Federal Judge Susan Bolton. Judge Bolton has scheduled a preliminary hearing on the injunction for July 22, 2010. No doubt the outcome of this case will affect other states contemplating passing similar immigration-related state legislation.

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