July 06 2010

July 6, 2010

Paco Fabián
(202) 785-1670

Federal action essential to assert authority and protect civil rights

Washington, DC—Today, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit intended to block the implementation of SB 1070, a law recently signed by Governor Jan Brewer (R–AZ) of Arizona. The law, widely criticized by civil rights groups, essentially codifies racial profiling and requires local law enforcement to enforce immigration laws that fall under federal jurisdiction.

“SB 1070 has brought national attention to the immigration crisis, but there are more politics than policy solutions behind this law. It shamefully preys on legitimate frustration with the broken immigration system, and while it cannot fix that problem, it will throw the door wide open to racial profiling” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR (National Council of La Raza), the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States. “As a nation, we cannot have each state decide how to implement immigration laws. The Department of Justice is taking an essential step to maintain federal authority over immigration controls and enforcement, and we hope that the courts will make the right call.”

The proposed law requires state, county, and municipal employees to ascertain the immigration status of a person if there is “reasonable suspicion” that the person is unlawfully present in the U.S. It also subjects local governments and their personnel to lawsuits by any resident who feels that the new law is not being enforced sufficiently. (For a complete summary of the bill by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, click here.)

According to the DOJ complaint:

“In this action, the United States seeks to declare invalid and preliminarily and permanently enjoin the enforcement of S.B. 1070, as amended and enacted by the State of Arizona, because S.B. 1070 is preempted by federal law and therefore violates the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.

“In our constitutional system, the federal government has preeminent authority to regulate immigration matters. This authority derives from the United States Constitution and numerous acts of Congress. The nation’s immigration laws reflect a careful and considered balance of national law enforcement, foreign relations, and humanitarian interests. Congress has assigned to the United States Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, and Department of State, along with other federal agencies, the task of enforcing and administering these immigration-related laws. In administering these laws, the federal agencies balance the complex – and often competing – objectives that animate federal immigration law and policy.

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.”

“SB 1070 would make Latinos in Arizona suspects in their own communities—even though the vast majority of them are native-born U.S. citizens and legal residents. Just as it is essential for DOJ to intervene in Arizona, it is imperative that Congress and the Obama administration once and for all deliver comprehensive immigration reform to the nation,” continued Murguía. “As other states consider legislation similar to SB 1070, the question is clear: Will Congress present real solutions, or will they allow immigration to be used for cheap political points and our civil rights to be trampled? We hope the two senators from Arizona rejoin the reform effort and put these misguided assaults in check.”

Please note that beginning July 9, the NCLR press team can be reached in San Antonio, Texas at (210) 582-7076 for the duration of the 2010 NCLR Annual Conference.

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