Federal Government Sues Arizona Over Immigration Law: U.S. v. Arizona (2010)

On Tuesday, July 6, 2010, the Federal Government filed a lawsuit against the state of Arizona, challenging Arizona’s new immigration law. 1 The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Phoenix, asks that court to declare Arizona’s law invalid and to prevent the law from taking effect. The law is to become effective on July 29, 2010. 2 Arizona’s law, signed by Governor Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010, makes it a crime to be an illegal immigrant in Arizona, and requires that law enforcement personnel verify the immigration status of a person stopped for another offense if they have “reasonable suspicion” that the person is an illegal immigrant. 3

In its lawsuit, the Federal Government argues that Arizona’s law unconstitutionally interferes with the Federal Government’s power to set and enforce immigration laws. 4 The lawsuit also seeks to prevent states from enacting similar 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,” the suit states.

The lawsuit also argues that the Arizona law compromises safety by “diverting resources and attention from the dangerous aliens who the Federal Government targets as its top enforcement priority,” and focusing on immigrants who may not have committed crimes. Enforcement of the law also “will cause the detention and harassment of authorized visitors, immigrants, and citizens who do not have or carry identification documents specified by the statute,” the lawsuit states.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and other civil rights groups filed a class action law suit against Arizona in May, alleging that Arizona’s immigration law invites racial profiling of people of color, violates day laborers’ freedom of speech, and unconstitutionally interferes with federal law.

1 – For full text of the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Federal Government, see http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2010/July/10-opa-776.html

2 – For more information, see http://www.statesmanjournal.com/article/20100708/OPINION/7080335/1049/OPINION.

3 – For full text of the Arizona statute, see http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/2r/bills/sb1070s.pdf.

4 – The suit alleges that Arizona’s law violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Article VI, Clause 2 of the US Constitution states, “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” Under the Supremacy Clause, a state law that conflicts with federal law is void. See Edgar v. Mite Corp., 457 US 624, 631 (1982).