- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Obama administration on Tuesday filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Arizona’s new immigration law, the Associated Press reported, drawing President Obama even deeper into the politically thorny issue.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix argues that Arizona’s law requiring state and local police to question and possibly arrest illegal immigrants during the enforcement of other laws such as traffic violations usurps federal authority.

“In our constitutional system, the federal government has pre-eminent authority to regulate immigration matters,” the lawsuit says. “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.”

The government is seeking an injunction to delay the July 29 implementation of the law until the case is resolved. It ultimately wants the law declared invalid.

The government contends that the Arizona law violates the supremacy clause of the Constitution, a legal theory that says federal laws override state laws. It is already illegal under federal law to be in the country illegally, but Arizona is the first state to make it a state crime and add its own punishment and enforcement tactics.

President Obama last week in a major address on the controversy called the state’s new rules “unenforceable,” and the lawsuit had been expected for some time. The decision comes as the president is calling on Congress to pass a broad immigration bill that would legalize illegal immigrants, but the push has been resisted by lawmakers who say Mr. Obama needs to first worry about border security.

Gov. Jan Brewer’s spokesman called the decision to sue “a terribly bad decision.”

“Arizona obviously has a terrible border security crisis that needs to be addressed, so Gov. Brewer has repeatedly said she would have preferred the resources and attention of the federal government would be focused on that crisis rather than this,” spokesman Paul Senseman said.

Three of the five Democrats in Arizona’s congressional delegation, who are facing tough re-election battles, had also urged Mr. Obama not to try to block the law from going into effect.

Republican Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain of Arizona also lashed out at the administration’s decision, saying “the American people must wonder whether the Obama Administration is really committed to securing the border when it sues a state that is simply trying to protect its people by enforcing immigration law.”

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