In Battle Between Feds and States Over Arizona's Immigration Law, Guess Which Side Rick Perry and Greg Abbott Are On?

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Danny Fulgencio
Governor Rick Perry
Arizona's new immigration law has been a polarizing political issue to say the least, with President Obama challenging its constitutionality through the Department of Justice by launching a July 6 lawsuit against Arizona and Governor Janice Brewer. So it was only a matter of time before Republican heavyweights Rick Perry and Greg Abbott -- both up for reelection in November -- weighed in.

At 9:27 last night, we received a press release from Governor Perry's office in which he praised Attorney General Abbott's amicus brief -- a document filed by someone not directly involved in the case that becomes part of the record for the judge's consideration. But there was a problem. We couldn't get our hands on the brief anywhere, and an e-mail to Perry's office asking for it went unanswered.

So, of course, we figured it would be all over the place this morning, but no such luck. Abbott spokesperson Jerry Strickland was happy to e-mail us a copy, which you can find after the jump, along with his comments. Abbott and eight others signed the brief written by Michigan Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Cox, which argues that the feds are attempting to negate the power of the states to verify someone's immigration status. This, as we already knew, has developed into nasty fight over states' rights.

In the press release, Perry praised their actions as an effort to uphold the Tenth Amendment.

"The federal government has failed to secure our borders as drug activity and murder rates soar in many border communities. States are left with no choice. Until the federal government secures the border, I expect more states to legislate in an effort to protect their citizens," he said.

"Regardless of anyone's feelings on the Arizona law, we must protect the 10th Amendment and right of states to legislate public safety to keep families and communities secure. I join Texas Attorney General Abbott in opposing the Obama Administration's effort to undermine the right of states to protect their citizens and govern themselves."

Not to be outdone, Strickland sent along this:

Texas and eight other states joined an amicus brief by the State of Michigan that protects and defends states' constitutionally protected police powers. In a lawsuit against the State of Arizona, the federal government is seeking to prevent states from exercising their well-established authority to enforce immigration laws.


Ironically, the federal government is challenging provisions of a law that mirrors the federal government's own immigration laws. Arizona's law does not establish any new regulation of immigration that does not already exist under federal law. It simply seeks increased enforcement of pre-existing immigration policy.

The Department of Justice's lawsuit against Arizona is not about civil rights--their legal pleadings do not allege any civil rights violations. Similarly, the lawsuit is not about immigration policy: the challenged statute penalizes precisely the same conduct that is already illegal under federal immigration law.

The brief explains that Congress has passed statutes recognizing the states' authority to enforce immigration laws; and federal courts have repeatedly confirmed that inherent police power. Even the Department of Justice has issued an official opinion finding that states are authorized to enforce immigration laws.

The states acknowledge they cannot independently establish immigration policies that conflict with federal law. But that limitation does not deprive the states of the ability to protect the public, which is why the brief cites court decisions and federal statutes that confirm the states' authority to enforce federal immigration laws.

Attorney General Abbott has already acknowledged the concerns that have been raised about the about the Arizona law, so the states' brief does not defend the statute on policy grounds--nor does the brief suggest that Texas would or should enact laws like Arizona's. Rather, the brief emphasizes that states cannot be deprived of their right to enforce immigration laws that mirror federal law.

The Obama Administration contends that its decision not to vigorously enforce certain federal immigration laws makes it unconstitutional for the states to do so. But that is wrong.

USA v AZ amicus



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