Feds May Challenge Arizona Law On Racial Discrimination Grounds

Attorney General Eric Holder said today that the Federal Government retains the option of suing Arizona a second time if the state's new immigration law is enforced in a discriminatory manner.

Attorney General Eric Holder hinted today that the Federal Government may expand it’s lawsuit against Arizona’s new immigration law if it turns out the law is being applied in a racially discriminatory manner:

Attorney General Eric Holder, just days after filing a federal lawsuit against Arizona’s immigration law, on Sunday floated the possibility of filing another suit on racial profiling grounds.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Arizona claimed the state was infringing on federal immigration responsibilities and urged the judge to prevent the law from going into effect at the end of July. Despite some officials’ claims that the law could lead to racial profiling, that concern was not cited as grounds for the suit.

However, Holder said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the federal government was leading with its “strongest” argument in the suit filed Tuesday and would not rule out a second suit months down the road — if the law ends up going into effect.

“It doesn’t mean that if the law for whatever reason happened to go into effect, that six months from now, a year from now, we might not look at the impact the law has had … and see whether or not there has been that racial profiling impact,” Holder said. “If that was the case, we would have the tools and we would bring suit on that basis.”

Holder’s comment would seem to be a response to some critics on the right who thought it newsworthy that the recently filed Federal lawsuit did not include any counts claiming that the law discriminated against Hispanics. The reason for that, of course, is that it’s very rare that a law of this type would be discriminatory on it’s face so there isn’t any legal basis for making that type of argument before the law is actually enforced. Once that begins to happen, though, such a claim will exist if it appears that Arizona law enforcement is applying the law in a discriminatory fashion, something which is entirely probable given the nature of the law despite the so-called “safeguards” the law contains against such discrimination.

So, rather than being a hollow threat as some bloggers are contending today, I would take Holder’s comments as a recognition of legal reality. And a warning that Arizona will face more legal challenges in the future if the law isn’t applied fairly.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. GS says:

    “something which is entirely probable given the nature of the law”

    Are you basing that on the possibility that police will use racial profiling as their primary tool in enforcing the law, or on the fact that 99.9% of the illegal immigrants in Arizona are in fact from south of the border.

  2. PD Shaw says:

    I would assume the feds also wouldn’t want to challenge the law on discriminatory grounds because the ruling would impact the federal government. The supremacy/commerce clause arguments only challenge state authority to enact immigration enforcement laws. A ruling that the law, or any portion of it, was discriminatory would be equally applicable to the federal government.

  3. grampagravy says:

    Children, remember, if you are ever in trouble or need help, find the nearest Police Officer–just remember they are all thugs and racists! At least a large segment of the population thinks so, and the Attorney General has his doubts.

  4. JKB says:

    Yeah, because the Arizona police couldn’t implement the program in the same manner as Rhode Island, which has had many cases determined not to violate Rhode Island’s racial profiling law. Or like the long running New York City “stop and frisk” program that even though 90% of those stopped are black or Hispanc and 88% of those stopped are released with out even a citation, although entered into a NYPD database, has been found not be discriminatory.

    Of course the DOJ will sue over racial discrimination grounds. It is part of their overall agenda just like the sandbagging of the black panther case.