U.S. Said Set to Challenge Arizona Immigration Law

June 18 (Bloomberg) -- The Obama administration plans to file a federal lawsuit challenging Arizona’s immigration law, a U.S. official said.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said today that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stands by a statement she made more than a week ago that the Justice Department “will be bringing a lawsuit against the act.”

The Arizona law requires that local law enforcement officials check the immigration status of anyone they suspect is in the country illegally. The law, which takes effect in late July, makes it a crime to be in Arizona without proper documents.

Tracy Schmaler, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said the department “continues to review the law.” She declined to elaborate or say whether Clinton’s comments are accurate.

Overhauling immigration law is one of President Barack Obama’s 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. Democratic leaders are focusing on measures to improve border security before addressing the 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the U.S.

During a visit to Quito, Ecuador, on June 8, Clinton responded to an interviewer’s question about Arizona’s law.

Clinton Statement

“President Obama has spoken out against the law because he thinks that the federal government should be determining immigration policy,” Clinton said. “And the Justice Department, under his direction, will be bringing a lawsuit against the act.”

“But the more important commitment that President Obama has made is to try to introduce and pass comprehensive immigration reform,” she said. “That is what we need. Everyone knows it, and the president is committed to doing it.”

When asked whether Clinton misspoke, Mark Toner, the director of the State Department’s press office said, “The secretary’s words stand for themselves.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Washington at ngaouette@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva@bloomberg.net