Just over a month away from July 29th, the day that Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB1070, is slated to go into effect, the situation seems poised for a clash between the Federal government and Arizona state over the law. In a rare moment in which the Federal government forcefully interferes with the affairs of a state, the Department of Justice has decided to file a lawsuit against SB1070, the Arizona law that makes it a misdemeanor for a person to be undocumented in Arizona. While the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had denounced the law in early May and announced that the Department of Justice was considering opposing the law, an official declaration of the Federal lawsuit was yet to come.
Until last week that is. The announcement that the Federal government was going to sue Arizona over SB1070 came from an unexpected, albeit official source. It became public last week that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had casually let the confirmation slip during a TV interview she gave while in Quito, Ecuador earlier this month. When asked by the interviewer about how the Obama administration was dealing with the controversial law that opponents feel will condone racial profiling by mandating that police officers question people on their immigration status based on their appearance, Secretary Clinton said-
President Obama has spoken out against the law because he thinks that the Federal Government should be determining immigration policy. And the Justice Department, under his direction, will be bringing a lawsuit against the act. But the more important commitment that President Obama has made is to try to introduce and pass comprehensive immigration reform. That is what we need, everyone knows it, and the President is committed to it…
Following Clinton’s interview, speculation on the matter in the media is rife. Justice Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that the department “continues to review the law” but declined to comment any further. The department of Justice has been reviewing the law for some weeks now, presumably building its case against the law from the angle of civil rights violations and from that of the its infringement on immigration law enforcement, which is a Federal issue. Federal officials have hinted at the high probability of a lawsuit over SB1070 numerous times in the past few weeks. An official who is involved in reviewing the law and wished to remain anonymous said that “there is no reason to think” that Secretary Clinton’s comment was wrong. According to the New York Times-
…senior administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said a decision had indeed been made and only the details of the legal filing were still being worked out. These officials said several government agencies were being consulted over the best approach to block the statute, which, barring any successful legal challenges, takes effect July 29.
As expected, Arizona’s Gov. Brewer, who signed off on this controversial law, is “outraged” by the news of the Federal Government’s lawsuit. Her office has been quick to file motions to dismiss the lawsuits against SB1070 that have been brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) , Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund, and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. When news of a possible Justice Department lawsuit was first heard, Gov. Brewer had faced the challenge head-on saying, “We’ll meet you in court.”
This time around Gov. Brewer was vocal in her displeasure that the news reached viewers in Ecuador before it was told to the people of Arizona. She released a statement saying that “this is no way to treat the people of Arizona.”The Los Angeles Times quotes her saying-
To learn of this lawsuit through an Ecuadorean interview with the secretary of state is just outrageous. If our own government intends to sue our state to prevent illegal immigration enforcement, the least it can do is inform us before it informs the citizens of another nation.
While it is difficult to take Gov. Brewer’s appeal for the “people of Arizona” seriously under the circumstances, Clinton’s interview does come as a surprise, as it preempts an official announcement of the lawsuit by the Justice Department. State Department spokesperson Philip J. Crowley said that her comments were meant to address deep concerns about the new law in Latin American countries. He stressed the international implications of the law saying that “It is important to recognize that this has resonated significantly beyond our borders.”
Speculation is that the Federal Government will file its case in the court in Phoenix in the week leading up to July 29. Joanne Lin, ACLU Legislative Counsel, reiterated the important of the Federal Government taking action against SB1070. She said-
The time for the Obama administration to take action against this egregious law is now. We urge the administration to move swiftly to stop this un-American law from going into effect. …The administration should also take other concrete steps, in addition to filing a lawsuit, against the Arizona law. Administration agencies, including the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, should suspend all cooperation with government officials and agencies in the state of Arizona on immigration enforcement matters as long as this law, which relies on racial stereotyping and profiling and interferes with federal immigration priorities and policies, remains on the books. Immediate action is essential to deter other states and localities from taking similar steps.
Watch Secretary Hillary Clinton’s interview with Ecuadorian channel, NTN 24-
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