Democratic governors are fretting that the Obama administration is going to cost the party severely in midterm elections in November with its federal lawsuit against Arizona’s popular immigration law — even as the Justice Department mulls yet another lawsuit for racial profiling against the state.
Polls have found consistently that nearly two-thirds of Americans support the Arizona law and that a solid majority would like a similar law in their own states.
A closed-door meeting in which Democratic state leaders slammed the lawsuit took place at the National Governors Association in Boston on Saturday, according to two unnamed governors who spoke to The New York Times.
"Universally the governors are saying, 'We've got to talk about jobs, and all of a sudden we have immigration going on,'" Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee was quoted as saying. "It is such a toxic subject, such an important time for Democrats."
The Arizona law, which is facing a U.S. Justice Department challenge, requires police to question people about their immigration status while enforcing other laws if there's reason to suspect someone is in the country illegally.
"I might have chosen both a different tack and a different time," the Times quoted Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. of Colorado as saying. "This is an issue that divides us politically, and I'm hopeful that their strategy doesn't do that in a way that makes it more difficult for candidates to get elected, particularly in the West."
Attorney General Eric Holder, meanwhile, said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday that the federal government is not ruling out a second suit months down the road — if the law ends up going into effect.
"It doesn't mean that if the law for whatever reason happened to go into effect, that six months from now, a year from now, we might not look at the impact the law has had . . . and see whether or not there has been that racial profiling impact," Holder said. "If that was the case, we would have the tools and we would bring suit on that basis."
The lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Arizona claimed that the state was infringing on federal immigration responsibilities and urged the judge to prevent the law from going into effect at the end of July, according to Fox News. Despite some officials' claims that the law could lead to racial profiling, that concern was not cited as grounds for the suit.
Rallying around Arizona Gov. Jan. Brewer at the Boston meeting, Republican Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska told the Times: "I'd be willing to bet a lot of money that almost every state in America next January is going to see a bill similar to Arizona's."
The White House did not respond directly to the Times report of complaints from Democratic governors, but Republicans believe it could be another boost to their prospects for taking control of the House and possibly the Senate. Already, GOP candidates in Florida and other states are using their support of the Arizona law in campaign ads.
Brewer, at a meeting of the nation's governors in Boston, told The Associated Press that the administration can't seem to make up its mind about its criticism of the law.
"Why would they have to hesitate, after all the comments they made, and all the outrage that they made against the bill in regards to racial profiling, that it didn't show up?" she said.
Speaking on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Obama's lawsuit is breaking new ground in "a misuse" of the supremacy clause of the Constitution.
"Never before have we challenged something because it might lead to something. There's nowhere in the Constitution that says a state is limited to what it absolutely won't do and can be stopped for what it might do," he said, according to The Washington Times.
Arizona's law amounts to "self-help consistent with existing federal programs that have been passed by Republican and Democratic presidents," and therefore does not conflict with the Constitution, he said.
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