Updated 11:27 AM EST 7/7/10
On Tuesday, President Obama’s Department of Justice moved to sue Arizona in an effort to overturn the state’s recently passed immigration law known as S.B. 1070.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is named as a defendant along with the state, responded in a statement saying “The irony is that President Obama’s Administration has chosen to sue Arizona for helping to enforce federal immigration law and not sue local governments that have adopted a patchwork of ‘sanctuary’ policies that directly violate federal law. These patchwork local ‘sanctuary’ policies instruct the police not to cooperate with federal immigration officials.”
At least five other lawsuits against Arizona’s law have been filed since April.
“It’s obviously a last resort here. Adding the federal suit to the pile is number six does not change the issues before the court. They’re making virtually the same claims that the ACLU and the other attorneys for the plaintiffs have made,” said Kris Kobach, former counsel to former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, during an interview with me on Tuesday night. Mr. Kobach is considered to be a major architect in the crafting of Arizona’s immigration law.
“It’s extraordinary to see what the Justice Department is doing here, and my guess is many Justice Department attorneys, just the career attorneys, feel very uncomfortable about this lawsuit,” he said.
The Justice Department’s decision to file the lawsuit against Arizona comes on the heels of the re-emergence of accusations that the department’s handling of the Philadelphia Black Panther voter intimidation case was not prosecuted due to the racial politics at DoJ, according to a former lawyer at the Department who testified in front of the Civil Rights Commission on Tuesday.
While the government’s case against Arizona does not include issues regarding racial profiling, it appears some at DoJ, who worked on the Black Panther case, will now be working on Arizona immigration law case.
“As I was reading through the complaint of the Arizona case, I did notice some of the names were the same. The interesting thing here is that you have the Justice Department within a short period of time dropping a slam-dunk lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party…and bringing a nearly impossible claim against the state of Arizona,” explained Mr. Kobach.
“So they drop the slam-dunk, and they’re attempting the half-court shot. What’s going on here? In both cases, if you’re going to bring one of the cases, you’re going to bring the Black Panther case, but they have already conceded defeat,” he said.
Mr. Kobach finds it hard to believe that the government, in the Arizona case, is bringing a case where there is “not a single precedent in all the federal appellate court opinions or Supreme Court opinions that support” the case. “So, they’re doing the legally unwise thing in both instances—the legally questionable thing.”
The government’s odd behavior in the legal process does make the co-author of Arizona’s law suspicious, though, if there is something more political going on at DoJ than what is being admitted to.
“That tells me there are some very perverse political forces at work either within the Justice Department or in the White House forcing the Justice Department to do this, and I don’t know which it is, but its really troubling.” Arizona’s new immigration law goes into effect on July 29.