The two members of Congress representing Arizona's border communities are taking divergent positions on Tuesday's decision by the U.S. Department of Justice to challenge the state's new immigration law.
Rep. Raul Grijalva said he is glad the Obama administration asked a federal judge to block the law from taking effect as scheduled July 29. He said it is prudent because the government has to defend its "constitutional prerogatives'' to control immigration policy.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, however, pronounced herself "disappointed'' with the lawsuit, just as she said she was disappointed with SB 1070 when it was approved.
"Neither will do anything to make Arizona's border communities more secure," her prepared statement says. "Federal lawyers arguing with state lawyers will do nothing to strengthen border security or to fix our broken immigration laws.''
Grijalva, however, said the lawsuit does serve a purpose.
"You have to test this law,'' he said.
"Even the most ardent supporter, whether it's (Gov.) Jan Brewer or (state Sen.) Russell Pearce, I hope after they took an oath of office to defend the constitution, would want to make sure they're defending and implementing the law that passes constitutional muster,'' Grijalva continued. "To do otherwise would be a disservice to everybody involved.''
He said that asking courts to review laws is "part of the democratic process.'' Grijalva said that's true even if a measure was approved by state lawmakers and signed by the governor, and even if it is popular.
"There was a point where other people supported laws that were eventually ruled unconstitutional,'' he said. One of those, said Grijalva, were various state laws which set up "separate but equal'' school systems for white and "colored'' students.
"Eventually the court provided relief from those laws,'' he said.
Grijalva took a slap at foes of the litigation, saying democracy rests on courts reviewing the constitutionality of laws.
"Suddenly, because of this law, because of political expediency, because of the trauma of immigration politics, (people) are going to ignore the constitution on a precedent-setting law like SB 1070 is a huge mistake,'' he said.
He also said the federal government needed to file its own challenge despite the five other challenges already made to the law.
"We're talking about the Supremacy Clause'' of the U.S. Constitution, he said. "No one can defend that Supremacy Clause other than the federal government.''
Grijalva said the other lawsuits can focus on related issues, like whether the law as crafted will necessarily lead to racial profiling. That issue was not raised Tuesday by the Department of Justice.