Feathered Bastard

U.S. Department of Justice Files SB 1070 Lawsuit Against Arizona

As was anticipated, the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit today in federal district court against the state of Arizona and Governor Jan Brewer over Arizona's new "papers, please" legislation, SB 1070.

In the lawsuit, the United States government "seeks to declare invalid and preliminarily and permanently enjoin the enforcement of S.B. 1070 . . . because S.B. 1070 is preempted by federal law and therefore violates the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution."

The Supremacy Clause makes the Constitution and federal statutes made pursuant to it the highest law in the land. The DOJ's action holds that the federal government has long been acknowledged as having purview over immigration-related matters.

"In our constitutional system, the federal government has preeminent authority to regulate immigration matters" reads the lawsuit. "This authority derives from the United States Constitution and numerous acts of Congress."

It continues: "Although states may exercise their police power in a manner that has an incidental or indirect effect on aliens, a state may not establish its own immigration policy or enforce state laws in a manner that interferes with the federal immigration laws. The Constitution and the federal immigration laws do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country."

Indeed, President Barack Obama warned of this threat of "a patchwork of state and local immigration policies" in an interview with CNN's Larry King on June 3, shortly after meeting with Governor Brewer in the Oval Office.

"I think [SB 1070] puts American citizens who look Hispanic or are Hispanic, potentially in an unfair situation," he said. "And more importantly, it also creates the prospect of 50 different laws in 50 different states when it comes to immigration."

The lawsuit  asks the court to declare SB 1070 null and void, and to enjoin the state of Arizona from enforcing the statute. You can read the entire complaint for yourself, here.

SB 1070 is scheduled to go into effect July 29, unless a federal judge grants the DOJ's request for an injunction. The ACLU, MALDEF, the NAACP and other groups have already filed a lawsuit seeing such an injunction. Oral arguments over that injunction request are scheduled for July 22.

Dan Pochoda, the legal director of the Arizona ACLU, welcomed intervention by the DOJ in the case.

"We're very pleased that it happened," he said of the lawsuit, "and we commend the federal; government's [move]."

Pochoda also stated that the DOJ suit "increases the chances" that a federal judge will issue a preliminary injunction in the case, especially as the federal government has long been recognized as having plenary power over immigration.

We should all hope for an injunction as SB 1070 works its way through the courts. An injunction would lessen the threat of civil unrest, violations of civil rights, and the boycott. Otherwise the economic quarantine of Arizona will continue, and people's civil rights will be inevitably trampled by SB 1070's enforcement.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons