Today, Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and David Vitter (R-LA) announced that their introduction of an amendment to the small business tax credits bill that would “prohibit President Obama’s administration, including the Department of Justice and other agencies, from participating in lawsuits seeking to invalidate the recently enacted Arizona immigration law.” More specifically, the amendment disallows the public funding of any lawsuits that challenge the law. In their press release, the two senators explained their reasons for the amendment:
“States like Arizona shouldn’t be prosecuted for protecting their citizens when the federal government fails to do so,” said Senator DeMint. “The federal government is rewarding illegal behavior and encouraging many more to enter our nation illegally when they refuse to enforce our laws. States along the border are facing kidnappings, drug trafficking, human trafficking and gang violence and they have a duty to keep their residents safe. Instead of suing states for doing his job, the President should get serious and stop holding border security hostage to pass amnesty and score points with his liberal base.”
“The state of Arizona is simply taking responsibility for a problem that the federal government has neglected for years, but Washington’s only response is to oppose these new enforcement efforts and take them to court. The Obama administration should not use taxpayers’ money to pay for these lawsuits that the American people overwhelmingly oppose,” said Senator Vitter.
DeMint mischaracterizes the lawsuit. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is not prosecuting Arizona for “protecting their citizens when the federal government fails to do so,” nor is it “suing states for doing his job.” The lawsuit is based on the notion the Arizona law is federally preempted and makes the job of enforcing immigration laws a lot harder for the federal government. In relation to the lawsuit, the DOJ has carefully cited a series of legitimate legal complaints ranging from the fact that both the intent and several provisions of SB-1070 depart from federal immigration law to the consequences of allowing a conflicting “patchwork” of state and local immigration laws to prevail.
Vitter’s stated motivation is even more troubling. Apparently, Vitter believes that the Department of Justice (DOJ) should avoid pursuing legal cases that are unpopular with the American public. Thankfully, the DOJ’s decisions are not meant to be guided by public opinion — they are guided by the laws. And in this case, the lawsuit against Arizona is guided by a very specific law in the U.S. Constitution which states that federal law preempts state law “in any area over which Congress expressly or impliedly has reserved exclusive authority or which is constitutionally reserved to the federal government, or where state law conflicts or interferes with federal law.” Ironically, it’s actually Vitter’s responsibility as a senator to represent the will of the American people — and the majority of the American people, across party lines, support comprehensive immigration reform. Both Vitter and DeMint have done more to block legislative action on immigration reform than encourage it.
Chris Good of The Atlantic points out that it’s “unlikely that this amendment will see a vote.” “Reid preempted amendments when he brought the bill up, but Republicans and Democrats have been negotiating over how to proceed, with the Senate voting on some,” explains Good.