Obama team delves into options on Arizona
By Richard A. Serrano and Peter Nicholas
The Los Angeles Times, April 29, 2010
Washington, DC — A team of top government lawyers has quietly begun studying legal strategies for the Obama administration to mount a challenge to Arizona's new illegal immigration law, including the filing of a federal lawsuit against the state or joining a suit brought by others who believe the bill unfairly targets Latinos.
President Obama and Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. have denounced the law, leading to expectations that the administration will take action soon. Obama said Wednesday that the law, which allows police to demand proof of citizenship, threatens the 'core values that we all care about.'
Attorneys from the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security are examining legal options and hope to make suggestions by mid-May, before the Arizona law takes effect sometime in mid-summer, officials said.
Adding urgency to the process, the White House voiced concern that other states may adopt laws like Arizona's. A Utah lawmaker already has proposed such a measure there.
Grounds for a possible U.S. challenge could include charges that the Arizona measure unlawfully pre-empts the federal government's role in securing the country's borders, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity. Or, federal officials could file a civil rights challenge, claiming that the law encourages racial profiling.
'There are multiple options that the administration has,'' Omar Jadwat, staff counsel with the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, said Thursday. “They can and should pursue every option within their authority.'
The legal deliberations come as the Obama administration and congressional Democrats hash out plans to overhaul federal immigration laws. Democrats on Thursday outlined their own approach, proposing that benchmarks for securing borders be followed by steps to allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States.
The administration believes that a court challenge in Arizona would send a message that Arizona should reverse course, and that other states should not follow Arizona's lead.
'In the absence of some sort of coherent national policy, there's always going to be an impetus for this kind of thing particularly in states that are border states or near the border where there's been a great deal of activity,'' White House senior advisor David Axelrod said in an interview.
Asked if the White House is considering steps to head off similar state legislation, Axelrod said: 'The best thing we can do is to develop and enforce a rational, thoughtful, consistent immigration policy that holds everybody accountable in the system. And that's what we're working toward.''
Yet, Obama expressed pessimism over prospects for passing a sweeping immigration overhaul this year. Speaking Wednesday to reporters on Air Force One, the president conceded that Congress may not have the 'appetite immediately to dive into another controversial issue.''
Still, Senate Democrats are eager to show they have not dropped the matter. Under pressure from Latino advocates, Senate Democrats held a news conference Thursday to outline a new blueprint for immigration overhaul, combining border security with steps to allow illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S.
But substantial obstacles remain, chiefly the absence of Republican support. A Democratic Senate aide said the new plan would dare Republicans to opt out, likely upsetting Latino voters in the run-up to the November midterm elections.
The popularity of the Arizona law among many state residents there has prompted other states to consider similar legislation, most notably Utah.
There, state Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, a two term Republican up for re-election this year, is pushing a bill that mirrors the Arizona legislation, saying his state needs to get tough because whenever Arizona attempts to restrict immigration, illegals simply move up Utah.
“We are becoming a kind of sanctuary state,'' he said.
Sandstrom also wants to eliminate a program in Utah that allows anyone without proper papers to obtain a Driving Privilege Card, which they often use to start a bank account and secure a loan. 'It gives them the mechanism to operate openly in the state of Utah. We certainly have to change that,'' he said.
He added that the state has found thousands of Social Security numbers have been stolen from children in Utah, many of them later used by illegal immigrants. And he said the state is paying millions each year to educate the children of illegal immigrants.
He added that a recent investigation by the state attorney general found that Social Security numbers of 50,000 local children had been stolen, with many turned over to undocumented workers. And he said Utah is paying about $100 million a year to educate the children of illegal immigrants.
With Utah a conservative state and Republicans having solid majorities in the state house, he expects to start holding hearings this summer. 'There is overwhelming support for this right now,'' Sandstrom said. 'Why? Because the word is out that Utah is a state that is pretty soft on illegal immigration.'
In Arizona on Thursday, two lawsuits were filed challenging the legality of the new bill.
The National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders filed suit in federal court in Phoenix, saying the measure usurps federal enforcement responsibilities. They also contended it was racial profiling. The second suit was filed in Tucson, where a local police officer asked the federal court to keep the law from going into effect.
Republican officials, including Gov. Jan Brewer, said support for the new law is running high, and that proponents are pushing for a statewide referendum in November to express their support for the measure.
U.S. to allay Mexican anger over Ariz. law
By Nicholas Kralev
The Washington Times, April 30, 2010
The Obama administration is trying to 'mitigate' the outrage Arizona's new immigration law has caused in Mexico, and the issue will top the agenda during next month's visit to Washington by the country's leader, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Thursday.
'Not surprisingly, the Mexican government has registered its very strong concern about the legislation passed in Arizona,' Mrs. Clinton told reporters at the State Department. 'We'll be working to understand and try to mitigate the concerns on that and other issues.'
Mexican President Felipe Calderon is scheduled to arrive on a state visit in about three weeks, and until last week, U.S. officials expected the recent wave of violence along the U.S.-Mexican border to dominate the discussions.
That matter, however, is likely to be overshadowed by the Arizona law, which aims to crack down on illegal immigration by authorizing police to detain suspected illegal immigrants. Many of those immigrants in Arizona are believed to be Mexican.
President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, a former Arizona governor, have voiced their opposition to the new law.
Also on Thursday, an Arizona police officer and a Latino group filed the first legal challenges against the new law. The officer's lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Tucson, claims the law violates numerous constitutional rights and could hinder police investigations in mostly Hispanic areas, the Associated Press reported.