NEW: The judge rules that Arizona's claims on immigration are without merit
NEW: Arizona's governor vows to take fight to the U.S. Supreme Court
Arizona passed a controversial immigration law last year, triggering lawsuits
A judge on Friday ruled against Arizona, dismissing its claims “in their entirety” against the federal government over its enforcement of immigration laws.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton is an apparent blow to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and her allies, who last year passed a controversial law known as SB 1070.
The Obama administration has challenged Arizona, claiming that enforcing immigration matters is the exclusive responsibility of the federal government. And in a separate ruling in July 2010, Bolton blocked four key elements of the state legislation from taking effect – including one requiring local police officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws.
This past August, state officials filed a petition to overturn that ruling, with Brewer saying she wants the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the matter. Arizona has argued that the law aims to merely assist and cooperate with federal authorities, which it says Congress has blessed.
The focus of Friday’s ruling was Arizona’s counterclaim to a federal lawsuit intent on blocking SB 1070.
Brewer released a statement Friday calling Bolton’s latest decision “to dismiss Arizona’s suit against the federal government … frustrating but not entirely surprising.”
“It is but the latest chapter in a story that Arizonans know all too well: The federal government ignores its constitutional and statutory duty to secure the border. Federal courts avert their eyes. American citizens pay the price,” the statement said.
Passed last year, the Arizona law aimed to “discourage and deter the unlawful entry and presence of aliens and economic activity by persons unlawfully present in the United States.”
In its counterclaims to the federal lawsuit, Arizona stated that Washington does not have “operational control” over the Arizona-Mexico border, fails to protect Arizonans from invasion and domestic violence and hasn’t lived up to its statutory responsibility to enforce immigration laws. Arizona also cited the 10th Amendment, which states that powers not delegated to federal authorities rest with the states.
But Bolton wrote in her ruling that the “invasion clause protects against ‘armed hostility from another political entity’ and does not permit Arizona to sue the federal government for its alleged failure to protect the state from unlawful immigration.” Bolton also said it is up to the political branch, not the courts, to decide if the “domestic violence clause” applies to the immigration debate.
Arizona also argued that it faces greater costs due to what it calls federal authorities failure to properly address immigration – including to “provide education, medical care and other benefits” to illegal immigrants in violation of the Tenth Amendment.”
The judge countered, claiming “Arizona does not point to any federal immigration policy that mandates or compels Arizona to take action.”
“The complained of expenditures arise entirely from Arizona’s own policy choices and independent constitutional obligations and are not incurred as a result of any federal mandate. These state costs do not give rise to a claim under the Tenth Amendment,” she wrote.
Arizona also alleged that the federal government “failed to comply with and enforce federal immigration law,” including a requirement that the U.S. Homeland Security department have “operational control” of the border and construct at least 700 miles of barriers.
The judge found that these laws don’t require “any discreet action ‘with the clarity necessary to support judicial action,’” noting that the term “operational control” is broad and that there are no deadlines for the fencing, infrastructure or other developments.
In her statement following Bolton’s ruling, Brewer vowed that the state’s efforts on the matters would continue.
“This decision makes it even more critical that the U.S. Supreme Court hear our defense of SB 1070,” she said. “If the courts won’t hold the federal government accountable – as today’s decision makes clear – then states like Arizona need clarity in terms of the authority they have to combat illegal immigration.”