Why is the Federal Government Suing Arizona and its Governor?

As you’ve most likely heard, the federal government filed a lawsuit against Arizona’s new immigration law on Tuesday, alleging that the law is unconstitutional. In addition, the federal government has also sued the state of Arizona and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer in an attempt to stop Senate Bill 1070 from taking effect on July 29. However, you still might not know the exact specifics of the lawsuit, including who in the federal government filed the lawsuit, what the federal government hopes to achieve in filing their lawsuit, as well as many other pertinent questions. Read below for the answers to these questions, as well as several others so that you are informed about Arizona’s new immigration law and what the federal government is doing about it:

Question: Who filed the lawsuit?

Answer: The Federal Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and State.

Question: What does the federal government want in filing their lawsuit?

Answer: A ruling that the law is invalid because of its unconstitutionality as well as a preliminary injunction to keep the law from going into effect while the matter is argued in the courts.

Question: What does the federal suit say about SB 1070?

Answer: The federal government says that a state cannot establish its own immigration policy or enforce state laws that interfere with federal immigration laws. In addition, the suit argues that Arizona’s law will “impose significant and counterproductive burdens” on federal agencies charged with enforcing immigration laws, that the law will divert “resources and attention away from dangerous aliens”, and that the Arizona law interferes with U.S. foreign affairs and humanitarian concerns taken into account by federal laws and policies.

Question: What do supporters of Arizona’s law say?

Answer: Supporters of the law claim that the bill is constitutional and that the federal government’s lawsuit is a waste of tax dollars.

Question: What’s the Supremacy Clause?

Answer: Article VI, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution says the Constitution, federal statutes and U.S. treaties are the supreme laws of the land and that federal law must prevail over any conflicting or inconsistent state law. Because the state law interferes with federal law, the suit says, it violates this clause.

Question: What’s the Commerce Clause?

Answer: Article I, Section 8 gives Congress the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.” The suit says SB 1070 restricts the interstate movements of illegal immigrants. There has been much disagreement historically regarding the Commerce Clause and the balance of power between the federal government and the states.

Question: What does preemption mean?

Answer: The doctrine, based on the Supremacy Clause, holds that certain matters are of such national importance that federal law pre-empts or takes precedence over state laws.

Question: What happens now to the SB 1070 suit?

Answer: Tuesday’s suit was assigned to U.S. District Judge Neil Wake. However, prosecutors said they will ask that the case be transferred to U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, who has scheduled hearings July 15 and 22 for other legal challenges already filed against the law.

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