PHOENIX (CN) – Writing on behalf of nine states and the Northern Mariana Islands, Michigan Attorney General Michael Cox jumped into the immigration debate on Arizona’s side, in an amicus brief that contends the Department of Justice is wrong in alleging that Arizona’s law constitutes a “regulation of immigration,” because it does not define who may enter the country nor under what conditions they might stay.
“The federal government seeks to negate this pre-existing power of the states to verify a person’s immigration status and similarly seeks to reject the assistance that the states can lawfully provide to the federal government,” Cox wrote in his federal brief.
Cox claims that Arizona’s law does not alter who is or is not considered an undocumented alien under federal law, but it does “highlight the obvious – enforcement of immigration laws will reduce violations of those laws.”
“Arizona, Michigan and every other state have the authority to enforce immigration laws, and it is appalling to see President Obama use taxpayer dollars to stop a state’s efforts to protect its own borders,” Cox added in a statement.
According to Cox’s brief, Arizona’s law allows local law enforcement to question a person’s status only if the officer has “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the United States illegally, a provision that Cox says is consistent with U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
Cox cites Muehler v. Mena, in which the Supreme Court held that “a police officer could question a person who is lawfully in custody about that person’s immigration status without triggering an additional seizure under the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.”
The Department of Justice’s claim that the law “is inconsistent with the policy objectives of the executive branch,” is not relevant because Congress “directed that federal immigration officials ‘shall respond’ to any state inquiry seeking to verify the citizenship status of any individual within its jurisdiction,” Cox wrote. It is ultimately in the hands of the federal government to identify the person and decide if the person should be deported or allowed to stay in the country, Cox claims.
“The United States was founded as a nation of laws and not of men, and I am deeply grateful for the national outpouring of support for the rights of states and the rule of law,” Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer wrote in a statement about to Cox’s brief.
The Justice Department has sued Arizona, claiming that its immigration law tries to “second guess” federal immigration policies, and unconstitutionally usurps the federal government’s power to regulate immigration. It also claims that the law ignores humanitarian issues, “such as the protections available under federal law for an alien who has a well-founded fear of persecution or who has been the victim of a natural disaster.”
Cox filed on behalf of his own state and Florida, Alabama, Nebraska, the Northern Mariana Islands, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Virginia.
Briefs in support of the Arizona law were also filed by the American Unity Legal Defense Fund, Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce (an author of the law), and the National Border Patrol Council, which includes several right-wing congressmen.