Skip to main content

Arizona countersues federal government over border security

From Casey Wian, CNN
Click to play
Gov. Brewer vows to fight US government
  • NEW:Homeland Security spokesman says countersuit is "meritless"
  • Obama administration won injunction last year blocking Arizona law
  • Similar suit filed by California in 1990s failed

(CNN) -- Arizona Governor Jan Brewer announced Thursday her state has filed a countersuit against the federal government, seeking the authority to implement its own border security efforts.

"Security and border control is by far the number one issue right now in Arizona," Brewer said at a news conference. "Illegal immigration is costing us a billion dollars, a billion dollars a year to maintain the level we're at and the federal government sits by and does nothing."

Homeland Security Department spokesman Matt Chandler called Arizona's court claim a "meritless" one that "does nothing to secure the border."

"Smart strategies, dedicated law enforcement personnel and strategic partnerships with state, local and tribal governments and agencies do," Chandler said. "Not only do actions like this ignore all of the statistical evidence, they also belittle the significant progress that our men and women in uniform have made to protect this border and the people who live alongside it."

Last year, Brewer signed the controversial measure known as SB 1070 into law, which among other things, would require local law enforcement in Arizona to apprehend and help deport illegal immigrants. The Obama administration sued, arguing only the federal government has that authority, and won a temporary injunction blocking the law.

"Here's the federal government claiming under pre-emption that we can't do anything to help defend the border, but they're not doing their job to defend the border and that's precisely what this lawsuit is," said Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, who joined fellow Republican Brewer at a news conference announcing the countersuit.

The suit charges that the federal government has failed to achieve "operational control" of the border as required by law, failed to protect Arizona, failed to enforce immigration laws, failed to pay for the costs of incarcerated illegal immigrants and violated Arizona's constitutional rights.

"I feel that frustration, but we have to find solutions that will work," said Democratic state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. "Countersuing the federal government without a legal basis simply wastes money and doesn't solve the problem."

A similar suit filed by California during the 1990s failed. "That one was not successful. We are hoping this one will be," Horne said. The federal government has not commented on the countersuit.

With Arizona in the midst of a major budget crisis, Brewer says no taxpayer funds will be spent on the countersuit. Instead Arizona plans to try to raise money from private donors nationwide.