Obama administration officials have decided to file a federal lawsuit to block a politically popular Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigration, Fox News and other news organizations reported Friday.
A spokesman for the Justice Department said the matter was still under review, but other senior administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The New York Times that a decision had indeed been made and that only the details of the suit were still being worked out.
The confirmation comes after an inadvertent confirmation by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in an interview last week with an Ecuadorian journalist.
"President Obama has spoken out against the law because he thinks that the federal government should be determining immigration policy," Clinton said in the interview. "And the Justice Department, under his direction, will be bringing a lawsuit against the act."
"But the more important commitment that President Obama has made is to try to introduce and pass comprehensive immigration reform," she said. "That is what we need. Everyone knows it, and the president is committed to doing it."
On Friday, Mark Toner, the director of the State Department's press office, told Bloomberg News: "The secretary's words stand for themselves."
The Arizona law gives local police greater power to check the legal status of people they stop and makes illegal immigration a state crime. Opponents fear the law will lead to racial profiling.
Clinton’s comments angered Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, the Republican who has been at the forefront of the debate. Her strong support of the law has been backed by several major polls that shows a majority of Americans support the law and would like to see similar laws in their own states.
“This no way to treat the people of Arizona," Brewer said in a statement.
"To learn of this lawsuit through an Ecuadorean interview with the secretary of state is just outrageous," she said. "If our own government intends to sue our state to prevent illegal immigration enforcement, the least it can do is inform us before it informs the citizens of another nation."
The White House also said Friday that its staffers will meet with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on June 28 in Arizona to provide more detail on sending National Guard troops to the border.
Brewer met with Obama at the White House two weeks ago where promises were made for the follow up meeting.
Further details are expected from the meeting on plans for deploying 1,200 National Guard troops to border states to help with border security and Obama's request to Congress for $500 million for border security.
Meanwhile, saying he's saving taxpayer funds, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard bowed out Friday from defending the legality of the state's new immigration law.
In a letter to Gov. Jan Brewer, Goddard, a Democrat who is running against Brewer for governor, said he still disputes her contention that she alone is entitled to control the defense of SB 1070 in five separate federal court lawsuits that have been filed so far, Arizona Daily Sun reported. Goddard said while Brewer is entitled to play a role in defending the state, the Arizona Constitution makes him the state's attorney.
Goddard told Brewer that a letter she sent him last week threatening to go to court to have him thrown off the case would create an entire new side issue, one that would detract from the underlying need to defend the law.
"More fundamentally, it would constitute yet another wasteful political lawsuit at taxpayers' expense at a time when our state cannot afford another political feud,'' the attorney general wrote. Goddard made it clear that he believe politics is at play, telling Brewer her threats to his authority is designed "to seek partisan political points.''
In late May, Justice Department lawyers traveled to Phoenix to speak with lawyers from the Goddard and Brewer’s offices. Both have said that a Federal lawsuit would be unwarranted.
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