After Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s nonchalant statement on Ecuadorian television last week that the Department of Justice planned to file suit challenging Arizona immigration law SB 1070, senior administration officials confirmed that such a suit would be forthcoming. The lawsuit is not really much of a surprise. Justice Department lawyers had traveled to Phoenix in late May to meet with Gov. Jan Brewer and state attorney general Terry Goddard to discuss the bill and try and find a solution short of a suit.
While the Justice Department has not publicly confirmed the nature of the claims, most believe the basis of the suit will challenge the state’s authority to intervene in immigration matters is preempted by federal authority. In addition to the constitutional support such a legal theory has, it also has legal support from the previous Republican administration. In 2007 the Bush administration successfully sued Illinois after it passed a law barring employers from using a federal electronic system to verify the immigration status of would-be employees.
Expect a suit to come soon though as the controversial measure is set to take effect in July. That said, it is only one of many suits already challenging the measure in federal court. Some of those cases have asked a federal judge to issue an injunction which would halt implementation of the measure while the legal issues get sorted out. To date no such injunction has been issued.
Federal intervention obviously has significant political implications for both Gov. Brewer and President Obama. Gov. Brewer has asked state attorney general Goddard took his office off the case after pressure from the Governor to do so. Attorney general Goddard, a Democrat, has come out publicly against the measure. He is currently seeking the Democratic nomination for governor and if he gets it will face Gov. Brewer in the general election.
The move to intervene could be a political challenge for the Obama administration as polls show that Americans favor allowing states more rights in enforcing immigration laws. But public opposition to the bill has been more vocal and apparent than those who support the measure, and Arizona is starting to feel the economic impact of widespread boycotts of the state in response to its passage.
It is also possible that the move to force a legal solution will force a political solution. Immigration reform is a must in this country, and the Arizona bill, and the current backlash, might just be the catalyst for that reform.
photo courtesy of ryanjriley via Flickr