Federal action essential to assert authority and protect civil rights

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 andadvocacy 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 ofArizona, 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.”

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The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) welcomes today’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice that it is intervening to block the implementation ofArizona ’s racial-profiling law, known as SB 1070. The controversial and divisive piece of legislation has taken center stage over the last few months, calling into question constitutional protections, federal civil rights laws and the role of the federal government to enforce immigration laws.

Since the 1950s, the Department of Justice has played a crucial role in our nation’s civil rightsstruggles. Whether desegregating schools, protecting women in the workplace or defending the constitutional rights of minority populations, the department has had a profound impact on the lives of every American. The Department of Justice’s actions today continue this proud tradition by working to end racial profiling and discriminatory legislation which form the heart of Arizona ’s enforcement legislation.

Today’s announcement should send a clear signal to states and localities that it is time to hit the pause button on any efforts to pass legislation similar to SB 1070. Failure to do so puts America on the wrong side of the law and the wrong side of history. Now is the time to turn to constructive solutions to our nation’s broken immigration system. We need humane and effective immigration reform so that we have an orderly process that is fair to workers, employers, taxpayers, and immigrants who want to strengthen their families and contribute to American society. In Arizona alone, immigrant households contribute over $10 billion to the state’s economy, support over 66,000 jobs and generate over $775 million in tax revenue. It’s time to stop demonizing immigrants and instead recognize their real value to the strength and economic stability of this nation. Today’s action by the Justice Departmentprovides an opportunity for us to close a potentially ugly chapter in our history and turn a corner in the debate.

NHLA looks forward to continuing its work with the Administration and Congress in bringing forthimmigration reform legislation that will create a national immigration policy that promotes the economic well being of our nation and grants the respect that hardworking immigrants deserve for their sacrifice and dedication to our nation.

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MALDEF issued a response to the announcement by the United States Department of Justice of its decision to file suit against Arizona and legally challenge the constitutionality of Arizona’s racially discriminatory, anti-immigrant law known as SB 1070.

MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz issued the following statement:

“MALDEF is encouraged by steps the Department of Justice (DOJ) has recently taken to vindicate the federal government’s exclusive authority to regulate immigration throughout the nation. By today filing a lawsuit challenging Arizona’s SB 1070, and by previously urging theSupreme Court to review Arizona’s employment eligibility law, the Obama Administration has demonstrated that it will, following in the footsteps of its strongest predecessors, take action to preserve our longstanding constitutional plan, which has fostered our development into the great nation that we have long been. Governor Jan Brewer cannot be permitted to pervert federal policy priorities and obstruct national progress all in the name of political pandering.

“Of course, what is imperative to protect the rights of Arizona residents is that the state be barred from planned implementation of SB 1070 on July 29. We look forward to working with the federal government to ensure that the timeline for the Friendly House lawsuit, with a scheduled hearing on preliminary injunction set for July 22, continues to apply as the new DOJ lawsuit commences its court journey.”

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In response to the Department of Justice’s announcement that it has filed suit against the state of Arizona for its recently passed immigration law, S.B. 1070, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, issued the following statement:

“Immigration policy is a federal responsibility and with today’s challenge of Arizona S.B. 1070, the Department of Justice made it clear that state laws which violate the Constitution will not go uncontested. Our country needs a federal solution to this problem, not a chaotic hodgepodge of 50 different state immigration policies.

Although S.B. 1070 sounds tough, it will do nothing to solve the problem and will foster a hostile environment for people of color and encourage racial profiling. Immigration reform must provide a system that ends illegal immigration, secures our borders and provides rules that everyone can follow. This can only be achieved by passing comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level. The time has come for Democrats and Republicans to unite and fix our broken immigration system once and for all.”

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Statement by Angela M. Kelley, Vice President of Immigration Policy and Advocacy at the Center for American Progress, on the U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit against Arizona’s immigration law, S.B. 1070:
“The Department of Justice took a strong stand today against the “Show Your Papers” Arizona immigration law by filing a lawsuit challenging this radical law. The DOJ is reasserting control over immigration policy at the national level with this lawsuit, and the national level is where immigration policy belongs. States can’t make up their own immigration laws any more than they can print their own money or enter into treaties with foreign countries.
A policy authorizing local cops to check anyone’s immigration status might have initial appeal, but law enforcement voices have in fact cried out against their assuming such authority. The Arizona Police Chiefs Association and others around the country have argued that it is impossible to know who is “legal” by appearances alone. So measures like Arizona’s will almost inevitably lead to counterproductive racial and ethnic profiling.
Still, Arizonans’ anger with the broken immigration system is understandable. Lawmakers have talked big but delivered little on the issue for too long. For instance, the Senate failed to pass an immigration measure three years ago that would have gone a long way toward solving fundamental problems with existing policies and programs. The difficulties with our dysfunctional system have festered in the meantime, and local communities must bear the brunt of lawmakers’ inaction.
Lawmakers should enact good policies through comprehensive immigration reforms that are good for Arizona and the entire nation, and they should stop playing bad politics.”

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The following is a statement from Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum and Chair of the Reform Immigration FOR America Campaign.

“The Department of Justice did their job and took a strong stand in defense of the United States Constitution and to protect American citizens. Let me be clear: Arizona ‘s law is the wrong approach, and we fully support the administration’s effort to overturn this law. The President described it as “misguided,” but it’s worse than that. Arizona ‘s law violates the Constitution, represents an unchecked government intervention that violates theconstitutional rights of every American, undermines law enforcement’s ability to fight crime, and discriminates against U.S. citizens based on skin color or accent.

While public opinion research has shown that a majority of Americans support the Arizona law, it is also true thatequal or greater numbers of Americans support comprehensive immigration reform. The only responsible path for the President, now that the Department of Justice has filed this suit, is to redouble his efforts to ensure that there is a federal solution to our nation’s broken immigration system – comprehensive immigration reform. We cannot, and should not have a 50-state patchwork of immigration laws. Immigration is a federal responsibility and the Department of Justice reasserted control today.

This announcement comes after more than 30 jurisdictions across the nation have enacted resolutions to condemn Arizona ‘s law, joined a national boycott of Arizona , or instituted travel bans. Similar resolutions are pending in at least 30 other jurisdictions nationwide. While legislators in at least 20 states are considering bills similar to the Arizona law, thus far, efforts in Massachusetts , Rhode Island and other states have either failed or stalled. Any efforts to copy Arizona ‘s “papers please” law will now have to consider whether they are prepared to engage in legal battles that are certain to involve the federal government. In Arizona , after filling the streets of Phoenix with up to 100,000 protestors, local advocates are preparing for a new wave of activity on July 29th, when the law is scheduled to be implemented.

It is time to solve this problem, and Arizona ‘s law is the direct result of frustration with federal inaction. Americans want Washington to lead, and so far, it hasn’t stepped up. Laws like Arizona ‘s won’t solve our broken immigration system and won’t end illegal immigration. For that, we need comprehensive immigration reform that strengthens border security; cracks down on illegal hiring; makes sure those in the country illegally come forward to pass background checks, study English and pay taxes in order to work towards citizenship; and reforms our legal immigration system going forward. This is the only way to end illegal immigration.”

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