Jan Brewer: We Will Beat All Lawsuits Against Arizona Illegal Immigration Law

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer talks about signing the immigration bill SB1070 into law Friday, April 23, 2010, in Phoenix. The sweeping measure would make it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally, and would require local law enforcement to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are in the country illegally. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer yesterday joined the chorus of GOP lawmakers decrying the Obama administration's lawsuit against her state's controversial immigration law, insisting that the law is constitutional and will prevail in court.

The Justice Department yesterday filed suit against Arizona's law, which makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally, arguing that it unconstitutionally usurps federal authority to enforce immigration laws. Like other Republicans and some Democrats, Brewer said in a statement that her state should not be punished for acting in the absence of federal enforcement of immigration laws.

"As a direct result of failed and inconsistent federal enforcement, Arizona is under attack from violent Mexican drug and immigrant smuggling cartels," she said. "Now, Arizona is under attack in federal court from President Obama and his Department of Justice... These funds could be better used against the violent Mexican cartels than the people of Arizona."

Brewer said she will "not stop fighting to protect the citizens of Arizona, and to defend Arizonans in federal court." The governor has set up a legal defense fund to collect contributions for the state's substantial legal fees.

"Arizona will ultimately prevail against the lawsuits - including this latest assault by the Obama Administration," Brewer said. "Our laws will be found to be constitutional - because that is exactly what they are."

Experts are divided on that assessment, according to reports.

The lawsuit is "not a slam dunk for the federal government, by a long shot," immigration and international-law expert and Temple Law professor Peter Spiro told the Wall Street Journal. Spiro notes that "nothing in the Constitution says anything about immigration. But it goes back to the late 19th century, in which the power became vested in the general foreign affairs power."

By contrast, Walter Dellinger, a former Clinton administration official and head of the appellate practice at the firm O'Melveny and Meyers, told the New Republic that the Arizona statute is definitely unconstitutional.

"Giving the national government control over immigration into the United States was a major decision made by the framers of the Constitution," he said. "Given the freedom of movement within the United States and the implications of immigration for domestic national issues and foreign policy, it is unthinkable to leave immigration policy to thirteen or fifty different states."

Just as the Obama administration's legal case may be questionable, so is the political fallout.

Vulnerable House Democrats from Arizona joined Republicans yesterday in denouncing the administration's lawsuit. "A court battle between the federal government and Arizona will not move us closer to securing the border or fixing America's broken immigration system," freshman Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) said in a statement. "Washington failed us on this issue again today, and Arizonans have had enough."

The Washington Post reports that the task of defending the suit this year will fall on President Obama, though he may try to avoid the issue as much as possible. The Justice Department yesterday announced the lawsuit with little fanfare, opting to brief reporters on the issue via a conference call versus a news conference.

Listen to comments from Kirkpatrick below, in a clip of her remarks on today's episode of Washington Unplugged: