ACLU, Department of Justice, Immigration, Racism

Arizona, Here Come the Lawsuits

As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the lawsuits are coming for Arizona’s new immigration law. First up, the ACLU. Bloomberg reports:

The American Civil Liberties Union is leading a court challenge to Arizona’s new law targeting illegal immigration, claiming the measure would allow unconstitutional racial profiling by police.

A group of civil rights organizations led by the ACLU also alleges that the law interferes with federal power and authority over immigration matters in violation of the U.S. Constitution, according to a complaint filed today in federal court in Phoenix. The group claims in addition that the statute infringes the free-speech rights of day laborers in the state.

It’s not surprising that the ACLU is taking the first shot at this. The Department of Justice might not be far behind….

Obviously a lot of people disagree with the Arizona law. I particularly like Seth Meyers’s description of what’s going on in AZ:

But “it’s straight out of a WWII movie” isn’t a legal claim.

It’s not entirely clear that the ACLU is articulating a legal claim either:

“Arizona’s law is quintessentially un-American: we are not a ‘show me your papers’ country, nor one that believes in subjecting people to harassment, investigation and arrest simply because others may perceive them as foreign,” Omar Jadwat, an attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement.

Sadly, this kind of thing is starting to sound all too American. In fact, the WSJ Law Blog reports that even the Department of Justice will have to reverse itself on some Bush-era theories if it wishes to articulate a consistent message regarding racial profiling:

Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder affirmed that the federal government was thinking of suing to challenge the law.

But the WaPo reports on Tuesday that a Bush-era legal opinion could complicate Holder’s plans.

The memo, authored by Jay Bybee in 2002, concluded that state police officers have “inherent power” to arrest undocumented immigrants for violating federal law.

According to the WaPo, the Obama administration has not withdrawn the memo, and some backers of the Arizona law said Monday that because it remains in place, a Justice Department lawsuit against Arizona would be awkward at best.

No, what’s awkward is to pull over American citizens and ask them to prove that they are American citizens just because of the color of their skin. You don’t see light-skinned Americans with hockey sticks getting pulled over in Seattle and being asked to show proof of citizenship.

But it’s going to take a little more than pointing out the racial animus in Arizona’s law to fight it in court.

Arizona Immigration Law Challenged by ACLU in Suit [Bloomberg Businessweek]
On the AZ Immigration Law: Might a Bybee Memo Thwart Holder? [WSJ Law Blog]

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