Arizona Immigration Lawsuit Isn't Political, U.S. Attorney General Says

Politics wasn’t behind the U.S. government’s decision to sue Arizona to block the state’s new law aimed at reducing illegal immigration, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said.

It’s “not true at all” that the Democratic Obama administration is trying to brand Republicans as anti- immigration before the November midterm elections, Holder said on the CBS program “Face the Nation” today.

“The basis for this was a legal determination by those of us at the Justice Department that the law was inconsistent with the Constitution,” Holder said. “There are a substantial number of Republicans and people in law enforcement who thought the decision that we made to file the lawsuit was, in fact, the correct one.”

The U.S. government argues in its July 6 lawsuit that under the Constitution immigration is a matter for federal policy only. The lawsuit, filed by the Justice Department in federal court in Phoenix, seeks an injunction against implementing the Arizona law that is set to take effect on July 29.

“We can’t have a patchwork of 50 states developing their own immigration policy,” White House adviser David Axelrod said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Arizona Law

The Arizona statute makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally. It requires local police officers who come in contact with someone for a law enforcement reason to check the individual’s immigration status if they suspect the person lacks proper documentation.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said July 6 that U.S. policies have left the state “under attack” from Mexican drug and immigrant-smuggling cartels. The legislation doesn’t allow racial profiling or discrimination, the Republican Brewer said when she signed the measure in April.

The law allows the state to provide needed help to the federal government, Arizona Senator Jon Kyl said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“It’s a matter of Arizona providing some additional law- enforcement assistance for the federal government,” said Kyl, a Republican. “It would be one thing if the federal government had controlled the border already, but it hasn’t.”

The Obama administration would rather have Republican support in passing legislation that would bolster border enforcement and permit temporary foreign workers into the U.S., Axelrod said.

‘Pretty Sharp’

“You have to have people willing to be partners,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “You look at the comments on the other side; I think they’ve been pretty sharp.”

President Barack Obama has said overhauling immigration law is one of his highest priorities. In 2007, Congress failed in an attempt to rewrite immigration legislation for the first time in 20 years.

Obama said in April that lawmakers may lack the “appetite” to try again. Leaders of Obama’s Democratic Party are focusing on measures to improve border security before addressing the 11 million illegal immigrants now in the U.S.

Democrats may get Republicans on board with legislation that has a temporary-worker program by agreeing to penalize illegal immigrants.

Those who broke the law entering the U.S. have to go to “the back of the line,” said Representative Brian Bilbray, a California Republican, on ABC’s “This Week.”

Representative Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, said on “This Week” that the millions of people thought to be illegally in the country aren’t likely to leave and apply for re-entry.

Bilbray “thinks this is kind of like ‘Fantasy Island,’ right, where 12 million people are just going to disappear like a mirage,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cotten Timberlake in Washington at ctimberlake@bloomberg.net

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.