July 6th, 2010
02:50 PM ET
12 years ago

Justice Department challenges Arizona immigration law

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/07/06/art.holder.doj.gi.jpg caption ="The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit challenging a contentious Arizona immigration law."]

Washington (CNN) - The Justice Department Tuesday filed a lawsuit challenging a tough new Arizona immigration law.

The law, which is scheduled to take effect at the end of July, 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. It also targets businesses that hire illegal immigrant laborers or knowingly transports them.

President Barack Obama said in a speech July 1 that the measure has "fanned the flames of an already contentious debate." Among other things, it puts pressure on police officers to enforce rules that are "unenforceable" while making communities less safe - in part, by making people more reluctant to report crimes, he said.

It also has "the potential of violating the rights of innocent American citizens and legal residents, making them subject to possible stops or questioning because of what they look like or how they sound."

Before the government's filing, Arizona's two senators, both Republicans, called the Obama administration move "far too premature."


"Moreover, 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. Jon Kyl and John McCain said in a statement.

Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick called the suit a "sideshow" in a statement released before it was officially filed.

"A court battle between the federal government and Arizona will not move us closer to securing the border or fixing America's broken immigration system," she said.

Arizona's Republican governor, Jan Brewer, has accused the Obama administration of failing to secure the border with Mexico, thereby forcing her state to act on its own.

"Do your job. Secure the border," Brewer said of the president in a July 1 speech to a Republican group. She pledged to "defend this law against every assault, including attacks by the Obama administration."

Obama renewed his push for comprehensive immigration reform last week, calling for bipartisan cooperation on an issue reflecting deep social and political divisions.

Seeking an elusive middle ground on the subject, the president highlighted the importance of immigrants to American history and progress while acknowledging the fear and frustration many feel with a system that he said seems "fundamentally broken."

He asserted that the majority of Americans are ready to embrace reform legislation that would help resolve the status of an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.

In his July 1 speech, Obama warned that rounding up everyone in the country who has entered illegally would be both "logistically impossible" and "tear at the fabric of the nation." At the same time, the president indicated it would be wrong to offer blanket amnesty for people who came into the United States unlawfully.

Despite Obama's call for bipartisan immigration reform, several senior Democratic sources said Thursday that they see virtually no chance of Congress taking up such a measure before November's midterm elections.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. national poll conducted in late May indicated that public support for beefing up security along the U.S. border with Mexico had grown significantly.

According to the survey, nearly nine out of 10 Americans want to increase U.S. law enforcement along the border with Mexico.

Eight in 10 questioned also supported a program that would allow illegal immigrants already in the United States to stay here and apply for legal residency, provided they had a job and paid back taxes.

But only 38 percent say that program should be a higher priority than border security and other get-tough proposals. Six in 10 said border security was the higher priority.

- CNN's Terry Frieden and Bill Mears contributed to this report


Filed under: Immigration
soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. phoenix86

    So the Obama administration orders a Voting Rights violation case dropped (after the case was won by the Justice Department) against the New Black Panthers for BREAKING the law, then goes after the State of Arizona for ENFORCING a Federal Law.

    This is change only the ignorant can believe in.

    July 6, 2010 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  2. Let's vote all repugs out of office!!!

    Go old fashion common sense will go a long way, this is why I support our President.

    I wish repugs would get on board!!!!

    July 6, 2010 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  3. If We Can Defeat Him On Healthcare It Will Be His Waterloo

    This law will be declared unconstitutional for two reasons:

    July 6, 2010 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  4. anthony

    The idea that Obama is not enforcing immigration laws simply does not square with reality. In 2009, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported that it deported 387,790 illegal immigrants, which set an all-time record, and ICE is projecting that the number will reach 400,000 in 2010. In other words, when it comes to deporting illegal immigrants, the Obama Administration does not take a back seat to Bush, or, for that matter, any previous administrations.

    July 6, 2010 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  5. If We Can Defeat Him On Healthcare It Will Be His Waterloo

    1. It's a federal issue
    2. It interfers with the right to travel (14th amendment)

    July 6, 2010 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  6. norma

    Just an FYI to all of you who say Pres. Obama isn't doing anything about illegal immigration. The deportation rate under Pres. Obama is much higher than the deportation rate under George W Bush.

    President Obama is also working on getting comprehensive immigration reform passed nationwide...ANOTHER thing W failed to do. I didn't hear AZ pitching a fit when W wasn't doing anything about the illegal immigrants in their midst. It's not like 13 million illegal immigrants walked across the border in the past 1 /2 years. Sheesh!

    July 6, 2010 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  7. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    "...making communities less safe – in part, by making people more reluctant to report crimes,..."

    Yeah, right.

    Precisely who is going to be "more reluctant to report crimes?" People being victimised by illegal aliens? I don't think so. The illegal aliens themselves, like they'd be dumb enough to call the cops?

    "...the potential of violating the rights of innocent American citizens and legal residents, making them subject to possible stops or questioning because of what they look like or how they sound."

    How about the certainty of the rights of innocent American citizens to be safe and secure in their possessions from the depredations of people who've already committed the crime of entering the US illegally and who disproportionately engage in further illegal acts, not infrequently violent, once they're here?

    And if anyone ever actually is stopped or questioned "because of what they look like or how they sound," they're certainly at liberty to challenge the legal propriety of that in court–they don't need Obama's meddling enforcers to do that for them.

    This is a very clear case of a clear, public, and very real and sometimes lethal danger to the people of Arizona, versus an amorphous, potential, not yet demonstrated, possibility that someone may be briefly inconvenienced.

    The truth of the matter is that Obama is simply trying to buy Hispanic votes while simultaneously trying to deny those votes to Republicans.

    July 6, 2010 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  8. Four and The Door

    When the State of Arizona's right to do this is upheld, the Federal Government will have effectively taken the effort to validate that action.

    Is this what it will take for the Federal Government to finally do something worthwhile with respect to Immigration Reform? Obama lip service is less and less believable.

    July 6, 2010 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  9. Fed Up!

    What a criminally stupid thing to do!

    LEAVE ARIZONA ALONE FER CRYIN' OUT LOUD!!!

    While I have left the Republican Party behind me, this action by the Obama Administration is a very big reason why I do not consider myself a Democrat.

    July 6, 2010 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  10. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Drive down most streets in any medium to large Arizona burg around 5AM. You will see clusters of day laborers waiting for contractors and hiring bosses to stop and pick the number of workers they think they will need that day. They are paid by the day per contractor. Cash. No benefits. No one checks for any documents to see if they are legally entitled to work. About the only time there is a problem is if one of them is injured on the job and has to receive medical treatment. As construction has slowed down, these groups of men have had fewer job options. As many of these are Hispanics, I would be willing to bet they would be stopped to checked for documents. How is that not profiling?

    July 6, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  11. susie

    We have to carry our drivers license or I.D. card, so why shouldn't they have to carry I.D.'s?

    July 6, 2010 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  12. Bob of Lompoc

    Read the 14th Amendment: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are C I T I Z E N S
    of the United States and of the State wherein they reside".

    That would include what the Racist Republican Cowboys and Cowgirls of AZ, and other States refer to as "anchor babies".

    Hispanics are here, they are here to stay and, thanks to incessant trashing of them by Republicans, starting with the 2008 Presidential Election, and continuing today, they vote Democratic. That is what is R E A L L Y behind this whole issue. The Republicans hope to force, by intimidation, enough Hispanics back across the Rio Grande, to "level the voting playing field. Ain't gonna happen.

    July 6, 2010 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  13. Jobe

    Do your job Obama and States will not impose these laws. I cannot wait to get rid of Obama and his group of loser advisers.

    July 6, 2010 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  14. JES

    I see you have your Priorities straight baseball first.

    I see you haven't changed a bit. Ecomony sinking, debt rising, spending out of control, and you are still as dumb as ever.

    July 6, 2010 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  15. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    "Moreover, 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. Jon Kyl and John McCain said in a statement.
    ______________________________________________________

    Oh, Sen. McShame & Sen. Kyl. Where was this committment to securing the border for the last 30 years you've been in Washington? Crime is actually down in the state of Arizona. You guys are a bunch of hypocrites. I remember President Bush(Dubya) tried to pass immigration reform. How did you morons vote on that measure?

    July 6, 2010 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  16. JJ

    Good. Let's hope for a serious adult discussion on the issue rather than hysterics and political games from Ms. Brewer. She's fear mongering for political purposes. Blatantly lying about the beheaded bodies in the desert, that no one can see but her. And facts about the crime rate don't side with Ms. Brewer either – crime has actually been dropping over the last several years. It's just political grandstanding with very little reasoning behind it. She's not looking for a solution, she's playing political games, and she's playing poorly. If she honestly thinks she'll be winning elections in AZ without the Latino vote, she's even dumber than I thought she was.

    July 6, 2010 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  17. Linda

    Now Arizona needs to counterclaim for the United States not enforcing its own laws and placing Arizona at risk. Get off Arizona's back. Most Americans agree with them.

    July 6, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  18. Bill in California

    ONCE AGAIN THE EMPEROR IS CAUGHT NAKED ON STAGE, still professing to wear the finest of garbs sewn with invisible thread. As with the HEALTHCARE issue he stands firmly against the will of his own people. Fancy speeches and more promises of Washington reform will not keep him from being tossed in the junkpile of history along with other 'experiment's gone awry. RIP DIMRATS 2010, EMPEROR 2012.

    July 6, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  19. Patricia Mitchell

    “US LAW ENFORCEMENT (DOJ) FILES SUIT OPPOSING ENFORCEMENT OF US LAW In reading through SB1070, every reference compliments, coordinates with, and supports Federal Law Enforcement. Opponents claim racism, although recent polls suggest that 60% of Americans of Hispanic descent support the bill. Objection to the “papers” is a flimsy argument; Proof of ID is routine in the lives of US CITIZENS these days. Homeland Security Napolitano, then Arizona Governor, with over 4,000 illegal trespassers crossing the border daily, declared a state of emergency in Arizona, calling it an “invasion”. Latest polls confirm that more than 70% of Americans support SB1070 (in some polls that figure is over 80%). Sensible Arizona lawmakers committed to the common good of the US Citizens they represent. STATE LAW ENFORCEMENT WORKING WITH FEDERAL LAW ENFORCEMENT TO PROTECT US CITIZENS. President Dwight D. Eisenhower said "The clearest way to show what the rule of law means to us in everyday life is to recall what has happened when there is no rule of law."

    Hey Washington, Arizona gets it , why don't you?

    July 6, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  20. mj

    Guess by now the White House has read the bill. They positioned themselves from the beginning to block this. For the people living in Arizona this is a horrific problem. It will only trickle to all States within a very short period of time. Secure our borders! I don't care if Obama needs the votes. The drug trafficking, murders, and abductions need to stop. Obama is a lawyer first – not a voice for the American people.

    July 6, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  21. Jason

    Feds to challenge Arizona immigration law – It is like this if you have a drug charge , and you are driving down the road they have the right to pull you over. Because it is probable cause same thing with the law i agree with AZ. (You have to stop the bleading -bill o'reilly)

    July 6, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  22. Hud

    This thing has been out there for months, and NOW the NoBammy Admin is going to file a lawsuit.... Talk about a group of people that have no idea how law (or government) work!
    It comes down to nothing more than a governor doing what this man and his cronies can't (and refuse to) do!

    July 6, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  23. Rickster

    Eric Holder may be the biggest clown in this Barnum & Bailey administration........and that's saying alot.

    July 6, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  24. Nothing is too big to fail

    I'm with Arizona on this one. The states should sue the federal government for not doing it's job stopping the invasion. Impeach Obama if he sues. States can protect themselves from terror and invasion

    July 6, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  25. Sniffit

    "It's amazing how this administration wants to regulate just about everything in this country "for the good of the people"... except the southern border."

    Said amidst the news media reporting all over the place regarding Obama's calls for comprehensive immigration reform and the GOP yet again claiming it's "not the right time" because they're afraid that if the Dems accomplish it, it will automatically enlarge the Dem voter base (of course, it never occurs to the GOP to stop riling their base by playing to their xenophobia and undercurrents of inbred racism and instead start finding legitimate ways to court the latino vote). I should congratulate you, grasshopper...blatant talking point fabrications contradictory to reality show that you have passed the final test for your black belt in Beck Fu.

    July 6, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
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