Inside Politics

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STATE

Clinton swears in new U.S. envoy to China

Former Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has been sworn in as the new U.S. ambassador to China, becoming the first Chinese-American to hold the post, which has become a focal point for U.S. and international diplomacy.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton officiated at Mr. Locke’s swearing-in ceremony Monday at the State Department. She praised the former two-term governor of Washington state for his hard work on behalf of the American people and said he was the right person to manage the “extraordinarily important” relationship the U.S. has with China.

Mr. Locke was easily confirmed for the post by the Senate with a voice vote. As the top U.S. envoy in Beijing, he replaces former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr., who resigned to seek the Republican presidential nomination to challenge President Obama next year.

JUSTICE

Administration challenges Alabama immigration law

The Obama administration is challenging a new Alabama immigration law that would let police detain people stopped for traffic offenses who are suspected of being in the country illegally, a law described as one of the toughest of its kind nationwide.

The Justice Department filed a complaint Monday in federal court in Birmingham stating that the Alabama law conflicts with federal law and undermines federal immigration priorities. The federal lawsuit argues that the state law also expands the opportunities for Alabama police to push immigrants toward incarceration for various new immigration crimes.

The Alabama law, set to take effect Sept. 1, also makes it a crime to knowingly give a ride or provide shelter to an illegal immigrant. It also requires schools to report the immigration status of students. Alabama employers also would now be required to use a federal system called E-Verify to determine if new workers are in the country legally.

The Justice Department, in its filing, says a state cannot set its own immigration policy and cannot pass laws that conflict with federal immigration laws.

“To put it in terms we relate to here in Alabama, you can only have one quarterback in a football game. In immigration, the federal government is the quarterback,” said Joyce Vance, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.

Already the law is facing mounting opposition.

On Monday, a coalition of religious leaders in Alabama filed suit, challenging the law. The lawsuit by Roman Catholic, United Methodist and Episcopal bishops says the new law “makes it a crime to follow God’s command to be Good Samaritans.”

Last month, a coalition of civil rights and immigrant rights groups also filed suit, seeking to bar the law from taking effect. U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn in Birmingham has scheduled a hearing for Aug. 24 on the request for her to stop it from being put in force Sept. 1.

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