The Department of Justice has now filed a lawsuit
against Arizona's controversial
anti-illegal immigration law. The law sparked widespread anger for requiring police to check the papers
of anyone they suspect might be in the country illegally, which opponents say amounts to racial profiling. But bizarrely, the lawsuit isn't over
civil rights issues. Rather, the federal government plans to argue that immigration policy is the federal
government's job, not the states'. Commentators
suggest there are some shrewd political calculations behind the move.
- Avoiding Issue of Race James Doty
at Salon is a bit taken aback by the absence of "any claim that the law
encourages officers to racially profile Hispanic residents and violate
their Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches--the
aspects of the law that many people find the most objectionable." It's
particularly "surprising," he says, because the argument that the
government is making, that the law "impermissibly burdens the
federal bureaucracy," probably won't be able to get rid of this
controversial part: "it's hardly intuitive that verifying immigration
status with federal officials would thwart the goals or policies of the
feds." Doty says he can see where Obama's coming from, having been burned by the Jeremiah Wright flap long ago. Nevertheless, he maintains: "[this] might be the
politically expedient course, but it falls far short of the standard
for civic bravery that [Obama] set for himself and for us."
- But Makes Same Point as AZ Law "The Obama administration's main argument is that the state law can't usurp federal law," reasons The Christian Science Monitor.
"It explains that federal resources are too limited for states to start
detaining such lawbreakers on their own and handing them over to
federal agents for deportation." Yet, the editors argue, " that's
nearly the same point behind the Arizona law." Obama "could have saved
the country a divisive legal battle by simply being tougher on border
security," they point out.
- Courting Voters Michael Graham
at The Boston Herald argues that if the Obama administration were really concerned about states
enforcing federal immigration policy, they'd sue Rhode Island, which
"been doing local immigration enforcement for years now," he points
out. "The glaring, obvious and painful answer is politics. Hispanics
are a key part of the Democratic Party coalition, and many Latino
voters are unhappy with President Obama's lack of action on amnesty for
- Better Chance of Winning the Suit? "Ultimately," explains The American Prospect's Adam Serwer,
"the Justice Department's strategy may reflect the concern over polling
that shows Americans aren't as concerned about racial profiling as they
are about immigration, and the recognition that if the challenge
reaches the Supreme Court, it will have to persuade conservative
justices who are more likely to be swayed by race-neutral arguments."
- And If It Wins, a Further Reaching Case, points out Suzy Khimm
at Mother Jones. If the Department of Justice wins the Arizona suit on
this argument, "it could also challenge the laws that other states and
towns have adopted, on the grounds that the federal government can't be
preempted by local and state laws when it comes to immigration."
- Designed to Placate Allies Hans von Spakovsky
at The Heritage Foundation is peeved, calling the move "a politically
motivated lawsuit designed to placate the Administration's allies who
believe in open borders and complete amnesty for all illegal aliens.
Arizona should fight this suit as hard as it can."
- Really? Do the Politics Check Out, Here? Commentary's Jennifer Rubin points to Politico analysis
suggesting that, though the suit "could ... help boost turnout among
Hispanic voters in key areas across the West," and help Obama "by
revving up his own base in 2012," it's more likely to "[prompt]
moderate white Western voters who are concerned about jobs to decamp to
the GOP at least in the short
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