Yesterday, the United States Justice Department officially filed suit against the state of Arizona, charging that the new laws conflict with federal immigration enforcement efforts. S.B. 1070, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer in April and set to go into effect on July 29, gives police the power to stop anyone they have "reasonable suspicion" to believe is an undocumented immigrant. President Obama's administration is asserting that the new law usurps federal control of immigration enforcement and could result in police harassment of those who are unable to provide papers to prove their citizenship.
"The Constitution and the federal immigration laws do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country," states the lawsuit. The Department of Justice's lawsuit against Arizona is based on the preemption doctrine in the Constitution's supremacy clause, which basically says that federal law trumps state law.
Professor of immigration law at University of Arizona Gabriel Chin echoed the sentiment of the lawsuit, telling Latina.com, "States don’t have the right to make their own immigration laws. States cannot set policy for reasons of national uniformity and the connection of foreign policy and immigration."
Lucas Guttentag, director of ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, pointed to the importance of the lawsuit in keeping these types of laws from spreading across the country: "This is the most extreme and dangerous of all state and local laws purporting to deal with immigration issues and the lawsuit is a way to shoot down any other states’ efforts to create similar laws."
Many critics suspect that the Obama administration moved ahead with the lawsuit as part of a politically calculated move to make immigration reform the central topic of the midterm elections, but senior DOJ officials denied the claims, saying, "We're charged not with doing what's popular or partisan or political, but doing what we think is right."