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Arizona becomes first state to sue Biden administration over COVID-19 vaccine mandates

White House defends new vaccine mandates
White House defends new vaccine mandates as GOP leaders threaten legal action 12:40

Washington — Arizona's attorney general filed a lawsuit Tuesday that seeks to invalidate President Biden's latest COVID-19 vaccine requirements for federal workers and large companies, becoming the first state to mount a legal challenge to the administration's newest rules.

In a 14-page complaint filed with a federal district court in Arizona, Attorney General Mark Brnovich argued Mr. Biden's new vaccine requirements unconstitutionally discriminate against U.S. citizens because undocumented immigrants apprehended by federal law enforcement are not subject to a federal vaccination requirement. 

While the details of the policies are still being worked out and yet to be made public, the attorney general said they are an "egregious" violation of the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause.

"In a nutshell: unauthorized aliens will not be subject to any vaccination requirements even when released directly into the United States (where most will remain), while roughly a hundred million U.S. citizens will be subject to unprecedented vaccination requirements," the state told the court. "This reflects an unmistakable — and unconstitutional — brand of favoritism in favor of unauthorized aliens."

Brnovich claimed that the Biden administration's "respect for individual rights" through vaccine mandates "appears to extend only" to undocumented migrants. He is asking the court to declare the new vaccination policies unconstitutional and block the Biden administration from imposing COVD-19 vaccine mandates on U.S. citizens or legal residents that differ from those applied to undocumented migrants. 

"The Biden Administration is once again flouting our laws and precedents to push their radical agenda," Brnovich said in a statement. "There can be no serious or scientific discussion about containing the spread of COVID-19 that doesn't begin at our southern border."

Mr. Biden announced last week his new vaccination requirements, the most sweeping to be imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to signing executive orders requiring all executive branch federal workers and contractors to be vaccinated, the president also said the Department of Labor would be developing an emergency rule to require all employers with at least 100 employees to mandate their workforce be fully vaccinated or undergo regular testing.

Companies that fail to comply with the rule from the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration could be subject to fines of $14,000 per violation. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last week there is not a vaccination requirement for migrants at the southern border.

Legal experts disagree as to whether Mr. Biden's vaccine requirements would withstand legal scrutiny, and a number of Republican governors vowed to sue the Biden administration over the forthcoming rule on the vaccine requirements for private companies.

Brnovich argued that because Arizona is a border state, it "suffers disproportionately from immigration-related burdens."

The president, however, appears undeterred by the threat of legal action against his new requirements. When asked Friday what his message is to Republicans pledging to sue, he replied, "have at it."

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