Obama Administration Ready To Sue Arizona Over Immigration Law

The Washington Post is reporting that the Obama Administration is ready to file a lawsuit against Arizona’s restrictive new immigration law:

The Justice Department has decided to file suit against Arizona on the grounds that the state’s new immigration law illegally intrudes on federal prerogatives, law enforcement sources said Monday.

The lawsuit, which three sources said could be filed as early as Tuesday, will invoke for its main argument the legal doctrine of “preemption,” which is based on the Constitution’s supremacy clause and says that federal law trumps state statutes. Justice Department officials believe that enforcing immigration laws is a federal responsibility, the sources said.

A federal lawsuit will dramatically escalate the legal and political battle over the Arizona law, which gives police the power to question anyone if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is an illegal immigrant. The measure has drawn words of condemnation from President Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and opposition from civil rights groups. It also has prompted at least five other lawsuits. Arizona officials have urged the Obama administration not to sue.


The preemption doctrine has been established in Supreme Court decisions, and some legal experts have said such a federal argument likely would persuade a judge to declare the law unconstitutional.

Without seeing the legal arguments from both sides, it’s hard to say what the ultimate fate of this suit will be. However, a federal suit is likely to further inflame the proponents of the Arizona law and may help make immigration even more of an issue in the November elections than it already is.

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. D.C. Russell says:

    So if the federal lawsuit prevails, what would be the effect on drug laws? Will the pro-drug people start suing?

    If it is unconstitutional for states to enforce immigration laws, why can they enforce drug laws.

    And if states are preempted from passing laws about immigration, why can they pass laws about drugs?

    I’m sure that the pro-immigration and anti-drug forces will have lots of legal rationalizations and hair-splitting to justify the difference, but maybe they ought to stop and think about whether they might be opening Pandora’s box.

    In any case, this will probably provide more welfare for lawyers.

  2. grampagravy says:

    “Justice Department officials believe that enforcing immigration laws is a federal responsibility, the sources said.”

    I’ve lived in and around Phoenix all of my life. I’ve watched the feds ignore illegal entry for decades. When 9/11 brought about new interest in the porous Mexican border, the big solution was to send troops and build a fence. The real solution is to eliminate the incentives for trespassing. Fewer troops or immigration officers would be needed to protect against real threats coming across if they didn’t have thousands of trespassers to hide among.
    Hopefully, SB1070 and the federal lawsuit will keep enough of a spotlight on this issue that real reform will follow.

  3. sam says:

    “And if states are preempted from passing laws about immigration, why can they pass laws about drugs?”

    They can, but it depends on what kind of law you’re talking about whether such a law survives federal challenge. SeeGonzales v. Raich (though it didn’t rely on the Supremacy Clause).

  4. Joe C. says:

    Transnational predatory monopoly capitalist interests aways win out, even over the dead bodies of law enforcement officials. I’ve lived in California my entire life, and I have observed white people of all types reacting very aggressively towards even the faintest touch of aggression from Asians….. but they’re actually afraid of Mexicans who walk all over them.

    I’m a blue collar worker, but I have some office skills too. Recently I went out on a temporary assignment, which was located at a private residence. So I drove up in my modest car at about 8:00 AM, dressed in a simple slacks, collared shirt, and tie. I got out of my car and an entire family of Mexicans or Central Americans, who were cutting someone’s lawn, stopped in their tracks, stood up, and just glared at me, not moving a muscle. Just glaring with utter contempt.

    Another time recently, I drove my one of those suburban office parks nearby where I live. It was at night, and I always glance over at a particular office which is unusually well furnished. Probably the office of the owner of that company. On this night, a Mexican or Central American cleaning lady was working in there. Somehow she saw me looking, I’m not sure how to me honest, although I was moving approximately 25 mph. She stood up, put her hands on her hips and stared me down. That certain expressionless, lifeless glare that they possess.

    White people, you have yourself one hell of a problem. There is an army of about 80 million of them in this country (40 million legal/40 million illegal), and most of them hate your guts, and are dreaming of taking you down, and not just in California either.

  5. grampagravy says:

    The look you get usually resembles the look you’re giving. Smile and wave at your next few “expressionless, lifeless” glares and see if your guts feel less hated afterwards.

  6. An Interested Party says:

    I’m thinking of an idea for a new zombie movie….all those scary Mexicans/Central Americans will be eating Joe’s intestines real soon…I wonder what people like him are going to do in about 40 years, when we become a minority-majority country…

  7. Houston says:

    …some legal experts have said such a federal argument likely would persuade a judge to declare the law unconstitutional

    Why are newspapers even allowed to make statements like this? This is supposed to be a “news article?”

  8. Kayd says:

    My family is made up of American Indians, African Americans, Caucasians, Asians, and Hispanics so please don’t call me racist. IMO if you break the law to get into America, you have no rights in America. People who are here legally have rights and are fully protected by our laws. Letting illegals stay in this country, fly their flags in disrespect to our flag, overtax our school systems, abuse our generous welfare programs, tag property, form gangs that run drugs and kill others, is a slap in the face to those who fought and died for this country. If you want to fly your flag go back to your country and fly it. If you want to become a citizen of the United States fill out the forms, take the class, and wait in line like everyone else has to. Why would anyone in this country be insulted to prove they are from this country? A policeman can stop me any day and ask for my ID and I will be proud to show it to them. Why is Obama standing up for something illegal and threatening to sue the state of Arizona for finally doing what the federal govt. refuses to do? I think it is time to take back our country from those that are misusing their power and return to one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all a-m-e-r-i-c-a-n-s. I support Arizona ,and any state, that has the integrity to stand for what they believe!

  9. Noneofyourbusiness says:

    I find it extremely offensive that the Federal government refuses to do their job, then believes they are right in suing a state that will. There are several counties in Virginia that have the same law. Are they going to be sued as well? I also find it sickening that anyone who speaks out against illegal immigrants is branded a racist. I have a Mexican daughter. I am also firmly of the opinion that anyone that harbors illegal immigrants are, as stated in the laws of this country, committing treason. Caucasians ARE the minority in this country as are all other “races” after those of Hispanic origin. The face of the matter remains, they break the law to get in, so they are already criminals. Many will not stop and commit no other crimes, and because they are technically not here, the rapists, child molesters, murderers, drug dealers, and other criminals among them are nearly untraceable…. that should scare anyone with a brain.