As expected, the Department of Justice filed suit today challenging Arizona’s immigration law on the grounds that the law is preempted by federal law. The preemption doctrine is based on the Constitution’s supremacy clause which states that federal law trumps state law on certain matters. The Justice Department under both Republican and Democratic administrations has maintained that enforcing immigration laws is a federal responsibility. The suit seeks a preliminary injunction to prohibit the legislation from taking effect later this month.
In addition to challenging the constitutionality of SB 1070 on the basis of preemption, the Department of Justice lawsuit also contains a civil rights component and argues that the law would lead to law enforcement harassing U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants in efforts to hunt down undocumented workers. The Arizona law gives police the ability to question anyone they have a “reasonable suspicion” is undocumented.
The Department of Justice lawsuit is only one of four other federal suits challenging the bill, but will undoubtedly raise the political stakes for the administration. The suit coincides with an renewed focus by the Obama administration on immigration reform and an announcement that the administration will send an additional 1200 troops to the Arizona border in an effort to help local law enforcement with problems along the border.
photo courtesy of jim.greenhill via Flickr