Arizona Files Counterclaim Against Government Over State's Immigration Law

Arizona filed counterclaims against the U.S. in the federal government’s lawsuit challenging a state law that requires police to determine the immigration status of people stopped for questioning.

Arizona Governor Janice Brewer, in a filing today in federal court in Phoenix, accuses the U.S. government of failing to maintain operational control of the state’s border with Mexico, failing to protect it from invasion and violence and failing to enforce federal immigration laws.

“The federal government has effectively conceded its inability to protect Arizona and its citizens from criminal activities associated with illegal aliens,” Brewer said in the filing. “Within the last year, the federal government placed warning signs in the desert 80 miles north of the border and only 30 miles south of Phoenix warning people to stay away from the area.”

Arizona is appealing a federal judge’s ruling that the state can’t require police to make a “reasonable attempt” to determine whether someone is legally in the U.S. and then detain that person if there is “suspicion” that he isn’t. The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco heard arguments in November. It hasn’t issued a decision.

Arizona Statute

Brewer signed the law in April, spurring protests and court challenges, including the U.S. Justice Department’s lawsuit. Opponents say the measure would invite racial profiling. Brewer has said the law responds to the federal government’s failure to curb illegal immigration.

“A meritless court claim such as this does nothing to secure the border,” Matthew Chandler, a spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, said in an e-mailed statement. “Smart strategies, dedicated law enforcement personnel, and strategic partnerships with state, local, and tribal governments and agencies do.”

About 40 percent of illegal aliens enter the U.S. through Arizona, Brewer said in today’s filing, citing federal government estimates. Illegal immigration costs the state $1 billion a year, she said at a news conference today announcing the state’s filing.

“Arizona is unable to bear the staggering cost of protecting itself,” Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said at the news conference. “And even if it could, the federal government has argued that Arizona is preempted from taking action to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law.”

Constitutional Obligations

Brewer said in the court filing that the state wants the court to clarify the constitutional and statutory obligations the federal government has with respect to immigration and illegal aliens, as well as the rights of Arizona.

The federal government hasn’t reimbursed Arizona for more than $760 million in costs to incarcerate illegal aliens, Brewer said today in a statement. It seeks a court order forcing the U.S. to pay for Arizona’s costs under the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program.

The case is U.S. v. State of Arizona, 2:10-cv-1413, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona (Phoenix).

To contact the reporter on this story: Edvard Pettersson in Los Angeles at epettersson@bloomberg.net. Alison Vekshin in San Francisco at avekshin@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at drovella@bloomberg.net.

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