Arizona is sick of being a defendant in lawsuit after lawsuit challenging the state’s harsh anti-immigration policies. On Thursday Gov. Jan Brewer announced that the state is turning the tables and suing the federal government in a countersuit to the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against SB 1070. Brewer accused the federal government of failing to enforce federal immigration laws, failing to control the Arizona-Mexico border and failing to protect the state from violence.
“Because the federal government has failed to protect the citizens…of Arizona, I am left with no other choice,” Brewer said at a news conference yesterday, Arizona’s KGMI reported.
“We did not want this fight,” Brewer said. “We did not start this fight. But, now that we are in it, Arizona will not rest until our border is secured and federal immigration laws are enforced.”
“The federal government has effectively conceded its inability to protect Arizona and its citizens from criminal activities associated with illegal aliens,” Brewer said in the filing, Bloomberg reported. “Within the last year, the federal government placed warning signs in the desert 80 miles north of the border and only 30 miles south of Phoenix warning people to stay away from the area.”
Arizona is also appealing U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton’s 2010 injunction of the portion of SB 1070 that empowered law enforcement officers to detain anyone they had reasonable suspicion to believe was in the state without papers. SB 1070, which Brewer signed into law last April, made it a state crime to be an undocumented immigrant, and expanded law enforcement officers’ powers to question people about their immigration status while they were enforcing local and state law or even civil code.
Immigration and civil rights groups criticized Brewer’s lawsuit. “In today’s announcement, the Governor fell back on her hollow adage that the federal government needs to ‘step up and do its job,’” said Jennifer Allen, the executive director of Tucson human rights group Border Action Network. “However, the reality is one of unprecedented resources dedicated to the border and record drops in apprehension rates and in people crossing the border illegally.”
“Arizona’s counterclaim against the United States is a political stunt designed to distract from the reality that SB 1070’s attempt to mandate racial profiling is unconstitutional,” said a coalition of groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. “Gov. Brewer and the attorney general are simply creating a legal sideshow that will do nothing to increase border security.”
“SB 1070 is a misguided law that puts Arizona out of step with fundamental values of fairness and equality, and has no place in Arizona or America,” the coalition said.
Allen said the real solutions to immigration issues in the country won’t be solved with laws like SB 1070. “To gain ‘operational control’ of the border, we need the federal government to fix our broken immigration system so that people can use the system rather than go around it,” Allen said. “Border security must take into account that there are six million people who live in U.S. border towns. Their safety, security, and rights should be valued in achieving border security.”