Justice Department Files Suit Against Arizona Immigration Law

| by The Volokh Conspiracy

By Jonathan H. Adler

Yesterday the Justice Department filed suit against Arizona’s controversial immigration law, alleging that it is preempted by federal law and seeking an injunction against its enforcement. The NYT reports:

The Justice Department argues the law would divert federal and local law enforcement officers by making them focus on people who may not have committed crimes, and by causing the “detention and harassment of authorized visitors, immigrants and citizens.”

“Arizonans are understandably frustrated with illegal immigration,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said. “But diverting federal resources away from dangerous aliens such as terrorism suspects and aliens with criminal records will impact the entire country’s safety.”

The Justice Department suit is also aimed at stemming a tide of similar laws under consideration in other states. “The Constitution and the federal immigration laws do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country,” the suit says. . . .

In a background call with reporters, a senior department official said the decision to file the lawsuit — and to do so on the ground that it pre-empts federal authority, rather than on civil rights grounds like racial profiling — followed extensive deliberations with the Civil Rights Division and others inside the department, and a trip to Arizona to meet with state officials.

Should the department fail to persuade the courts to block Arizona’s law, the official said, it would closely watch for signs that people of Hispanic appearance were being singled out.

Here is the complaint. The WSJ law blog has an interview with Temple’s Peter Spiro, who explains why this is a close case.