Until recently, the Obama administration had been coy about whether it would mount a legal challenge Arizona’s much-debated immigration law. Now that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s perhaps-unintentional confirmation of a pending lawsuit has made the rounds, the cat appears to be out of the bag.
A “senior administration official” has told CBS News that the Justice Department is not just considering whether or not such a lawsuit would be filed, but is in fact building a case for what will be a formal challenge to the law.
The confirmation follows Clinton’s statement - or announcement, or prediction, or gaffe - in an interview on June 8 with an Ecuadorian television station that was first dug up by The Right Scoop. Said Clinton:
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.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed the law on April 23, is pleased neither with the lawsuit nor the way it’s been announced. Here’s part of her statement:
“This is no way to treat the people of Arizona …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.”
Putting aside the strange way its intentions have been revealed, the fact that the Obama administration wants to bog down the enforcement of Arizona’s law is not surprising. Already, Department of Homeland Security officials had signaled to NEWSWEEK that they were unlikely to deport immigrants scooped up under the law unless they were violent criminals. The law, which requires police making a “lawful stop, detention, or arrest” to check a person’s immigration status if they reasonably suspect the person is in the country illegally, is open to challenge on several fronts, including the possibility that it would lead to racial profiling of Latino U.S. citizens. Many Americans may think Arizona’s law is “about right”, but if the administration opposes it in favor of a national approach, why should the Justice Department shy away from a legal fight?