The Justice Department could file a lawsuit challenging Arizona’s immigration law as early as Tuesday, an official tells Fox News.
The potential court action comes just days after President Obama delivered a speech calling on Congress to tackle a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration system. In the speech, he criticized Arizona’s law and warned that national legislation is needed to prevent other states from following suit.
The president did not mention the lawsuit, but one was widely expected. After the administration initially said it would take the law under review, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton revealed last month in an interview with a foreign television network that the administration intended to challenge the Arizona policy. The Justice Department would do so on the grounds that federal responsibility for border enforcement preempts any state law on the issue.
The Arizona law, passed in April and set to go into effect at the end of July, makes illegal immigration a state crime and requires local law enforcement to question anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant on their residency status.
Obama and other top officials have criticized the law as misguided, while Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has slammed the administration for pursuing a lawsuit. She claims the administration has not done enough to secure the border — a charge the administration denies.
Brewer told Fox News in June that Arizona would not back down from its law.
“We’ll meet them in court … and we will win,” she said, calling the administration’s actions a “disappointment.”
The Arizona law has touched off an intense national debate over immigration. The results of any court challenge would have wide-ranging implications, as a number of other states and jurisdictions have taken up tough immigration policies similar to Arizona’s.
The Obama administration has meanwhile tried to use the law as the impetus to prod Congress into tackling an immigration bill. While Arizona lawmakers defend their law as necessary to patrol the border, Obama described it last week as “unenforceable” and a vehicle for civil rights abuse. He said a “national standard” is needed and that he won’t “kick the can down the road” any longer.
Republicans bristled at the speech, though, and continued to urge the administration to better secure the border before tackling a comprehensive bill — which would likely include a pathway to legal status for millions of illegal immigrants.