Justice Dept. to File Suit Over Arizona Law

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By Jason Beahm on July 06, 2010 2:09 PM

After continuing speculation, the Justice Department has officially filed a lawsuit challenging SB 1070, Arizona's new immigration law. The new law gives Arizona law enforcement the authority to check the legal status of people they stop and requires all legal immigrants to carry their papers. Under SB 1070, when an officer suspects that someone they stop is in Arizona illegally, they should question them.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer argues that the lawsuit against Arizona is misguided, because the Arizona immigration law mirrors a federal law requiring that legal immigrants carry immigration papers. Brewer does not believe that the law will lead to racial profiling. Brewer contends that the federal government has failed to act on immigration, requiring the state to step in.

Opponents, including the Obama administration, argue that the Arizona law is unconstitutional as it violates civil rights and is preempted by the constitution. The doctrine of preemption is based on the U.S. Constitution's supremacy clause. The supremacy clause generally stands for the principle that federal law trumps state law. As immigration laws and policy are federal, SB 1070 opponents argue that Arizona cannot set its own immigration policy.

President Barack Obama has criticized the Arizona law, saying SB 1070 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..."  Obama gave a speech on July 1st and contended that arresting everyone that has entered the country illegally is practically impossible and would "tear at the fabric of the nation." However, Obama also spoke out against blanket amnesty.

Arizona's Republican senators, Kyl and McCain criticized the Obama administration's legal challenge, CNN reports:

...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, they said in a joint statement.

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