Justice Department Weighing Challenge to Arizona Immigration Law

Draft Says Arizona Legislature Overstepped Its Authority


May 26, 2010—

A team of Justice Department attorneys has written a recommendation challenging the Arizona immigration law.

The draft recommendation, part of an ongoing Justice Department review, concludes the Arizona legislature exceeded its authority in crafting a law that could impede federal responsibility for enforcing immigration laws.

Some department lawyers are also concerned that the law could lead to abuses based on race.

The review, however, is not yet complete and there are some within the Justice Department who challenge the recommendation's legal analysis. Sources tell ABC News that the ongoing review may take weeks more and that no formal recommendation has been sent to the White House.

The White House will have to give its stamp of approval for the Justice Department to challenge the law because this is a civil case.

The Arizona immigration law passed in late April is set to be implemented on July 29, barring any legal challenges. The controversial law that has attracted international attention and sparked protests around the country essentially gives Arizona law enforcement greater authority to look for and arrest illegal immigrants.

The bill would allow the police to question and arrest people without warrant if there is "reasonable suspicion" about their immigration status, and to charge undocumented citizens with "trespassing."

People would have to carry proof of their immigration status and can be arrested if they don't have proper documents. It would become illegal for people to employ illegal immigrants or to transport them anywhere in the state, even if they are family members.

A number of police chiefs, including those from Phoenix and Tucson, came to the Department of Justice today to meet with Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss their opposition to the new law. The police chiefs told Holder that the law is driving a wedge between them and people in their communities. Other chiefs that attended included those from Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston and the Arizona Chiefs Association.