The same Justice Department that dropped a case of clear and obvious voter intimidation perpetrated by members of the New Black Panthers has announced it will go forward with a lawsuit against Arizona based on its new immigration law. The announcement came on the day when J. Christian Adams, a former attorney at the Justice Department, testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that he had been ordered repeatedly to ignore cases involving black defendants and white victims.
The lawsuit against Arizona charges that the state is co-opting federal immigration, which is pre-eminent. The claim further charges that the state is interfering with the federal government’s execution of its own immigration statues, thereby placing a “burden” on federal agencies. There is no mention in the suit of racial profiling pr civil rights violations, the line of argument that the Justice Department and the president, who champions the action, were pursuing earlier.
The case, which
is almost certainly to be settled by the Supreme Court regardless of the outcome at the district level, will be a difficult one for government attorneys to make. For starters Arizona’s law follows the spirit and language of the federal statutes on immigration. Its demand that immigrants carry their papers with them at all times reflects a federal requirement that naturalized citizens carry proof of citizenship on their persons. The right of Arizona authorities to question a person’s immigration status is also a feature of federal law.
Perhaps the biggest Achilles Heel in the suit is the making the argument that federal pre-eminence over the law of the land—as guaranteed by the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution—can be invoked to overturn a state law that does nothing more than carry out federal law as currently written.
The one certainty in the case is that it will be costly, adding another financial burden to taxpayers at a time when most Americans are feeling tapped out and weary. Further alienating voters at a time when his approval rating is at an all-time low is a gamble Barack Obama seems willing to take if one possible outcome of the case is winning 11 million new voters.
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