Republicans decried a federal judge’s decision Wednesday to block key provisions of Arizona’s new immigration law, saying the ruling highlights the Obama administration’s failure to secure the border and will exacerbate Democratic losses in November.
Most Democrats hailed the decision, saying Arizona’s SB 1070 was “un-American and unconstitutional” because it would have required police to arrest people based on their appearance and detain them until their immigration status was determined.
But Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.), who has criticized the administration’s lawsuit, said the ruling marked just the beginning of months of costly courtroom battles in a case that is widely expected to end up at the Supreme Court.
“There are no winners here. No matter what the courts ultimately decide, we will still have wasted millions of dollars, and our borders will still not be secure,” Kirkpatrick said. “The administration needs to stop pursuing this distraction and start working with us to get the border region under control and develop a national immigration strategy.”
Kurt Davis, an Arizona GOP political consultant, sounded what is likely to be a Republican theme. “The big hand of the federal government, in this case a Clinton-appointed judge, has once again interfered with a state trying to secure its porous border,” he said. “This ruling will ensure this issue is discussed the entire election cycle and that the negative impact on Democrats, from the president on down, will be significant.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said he assumed that because of further litigation, “this may be unresolved for some time.”
“The more important lesson,” he added, “is the Obama administration needs to make immigration reform and border security a priority because this is what happens when states are basically left to their own devices to try to protect their own people.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton’s ruling a “sort of timeout” in the immigration debate. “It stops the law from spreading because any state will have to slow down and think about this. It doesn’t solve the problem. It gives us time to re-engage with each other.”
“I would like to use this judicial timeout to find some constructive path forward,” said Graham. Obama should “use this time wisely,” work with Congress and hammer out a solution.
In her ruling, Bolton agreed with much of the Justice Department’s request for a preliminary injunction against the law, which is slated to take effect Thursday.
Bolton blocked a provision that would require police to determine the immigration status of people they suspect are in the country illegally. She also blocked a section of the law that would make it a state crime to be in the U.S. without valid documents.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican who signed the legislation into law in April, pledged to take the case to the Supreme Court. State Attorney General Terry Goddard, her presumptive Democratic opponent in November, attacked Brewer for her role in enacting the law.
“Jan Brewer played politics with immigration, and she lost,” Goddard said in a statement. “Rather than providing the leadership Arizona needs to solve the immigration problem, Jan Brewer signed a bill she could not defend in court, which has led to boycotts, jeopardized our tourism industry and polarized our state.”
Another Arizona Democrat, Rep. Ed Pastor, said the Justice Department was right to argue that the Arizona law usurps the federal government’s authority to enforce immigration laws.
“The implementation of these provisions would have seriously interfered with federal immigration enforcement, causing irreparable harm to the people of Arizona,” Pastor said. “Under the Constitution, the federal government has the exclusive authority to set immigration policy.”
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), a leading voice on comprehensive immigration reform, said it was up to the federal government to “set and enforce a uniform, national immigration law, and this will help head off the rush to having 50 state laws and hundreds of county and municipal laws.”