Thursday, February 10, 2011

Arizona to countersue feds over immigration issues

Arizona is suing the federal government, claiming the feds have failed to secure the border and protect the state from "an invasion" of illegal immigrants.

Gov. Jan Brewer said the intent of the lawsuit and the state's first priority is to force the federal government to protect Arizonans.

"The first and foremost issue we're facing right now is the security, safety and welfare of our citizens," Brewer said. "The federal government needs to step up and do their job."

The lawsuit was filed Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Phoenix as a countersuit to the lawsuit the U.S. Department of Justice filed against Arizona challenging the constitutionality of its immigration law, Senate Bill 1070.

"Arizona did not want this fight, we did not start this fight," Brewer said. "But now that we are in it, Arizona will not rest until our borders are secure."

The lawsuit alleges that the federal government has failed in five areas:

-To achieve and maintain "operational control" of the border.
-To protect Arizona against "invasion."
-To enforce immigration laws.
-To uphold the 10th Amendment, which states that "powers not delegated to the United States by the constitution ... are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

"What we're seeking is to force the federal government to do its job," Attorney General Tom Horne said, adding that the Obama Administration is "actively" not enforcing immigration law.

Horne said there have been similar cases filed out of other states over the years.

"We hope this one will be successful," he said.

The White House declined to comment and referred calls to the Department of Justice, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, who wrote SB 1070, was at Brewer's announcement of the lawsuit, as was Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix.

Sinema called the move a distraction from other issues and a waste of time.

"Gov. Brewer should be focused on solving the problems in our own house," Sinema said. "We need Congress to act. The state of Arizona doesn't have the power to do it."

Sinema, an attorney, said the invasion allegation in particular would likely fail in court.

"While we all agree the immigration crisis is a massive crisis, I don't think it qualifies as an invasion," she said.

Pearce dismissed criticism that the Legislature is focusing on immigration issues instead of jobs or the budget.

"This is about our budget," Pearce said. "This is about the health and safety of the citizens of Arizona."

He said he applauded the governor and attorney general for filing the lawsuit.

"The federal government has been derelict in their responsibilities," he said. "This is way overdue."

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