Washington (CNN) – Republican leaders reacted swiftly Tuesday to a Justice Department decision to file a lawsuit challenging a tough new Arizona immigration law.
Justice Department lawyers argued that the state statute that requires immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times, and allows police to question the residency status of people in the course of enforcing another law, should be declared invalid because it has improperly preempted federal law.
But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky ripped the Obama administration, saying in a statement that the federal government has "utterly failed" and that today's lawsuit "will not help secure our borders."
"Suing the people of Arizona for attempting to do a job the federal government has utterly failed to execute will not help secure our borders. If the President wants to make real progress on this issue, he can do so by taking amnesty off the table and focus his efforts on border and interior security," McConnell said.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele issued a statement of his own Tuesday afternoon accusing the White House of playing politics with the issue of border security.
"The state of Arizona has the right and the responsibility to provide security and stability for its citizens when the federal government fails to do so," Steele said. "Not only will a lawsuit not solve the problem, it is just another instance of hollow, political gamesmanship from a White House unwilling to take the bold action necessary to solve one of the country's most pressing issues."
Arizona's Republican Senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl also blasted the decision to file the lawsuit.
"The American people must wonder whether the Obama administration is really committed to securing the border when it sues a state that is simply trying to protect its people by enforcing immigration law," Sens. Kyl and McCain said in a statement.
The two Arizona Senators were joined in their dissent by Rep. Tom Price, R-Georgia, who issued a statement on behalf of the Republican Study Committee, a group that counts more than 115 House Republicans as members.
"The Justice Department's complaint that Arizona has somehow preempted federal law is nothing short of ridiculous," Price said. "Arizona has simply reinforced longstanding federal laws, whose enforcement the Obama administration is now actively seeking to prevent. This will do nothing to stop illegal immigration in America and only add to the political divide over this issue."