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Why the Justice Department's Suit Against Arizona Makes Sense

Once again Congressional Republicans have made the immigration debate political. Senator Lindsey Graham (S.C), who thought that the Arizona law ( S.B.1070) was unconstitutional back in April now thinks that the Justice department lawsuit against the State of Arizona is an attempt by the Obama administration to get out the Hispanic vote for Democrats in general and Harry Reid in particular.

What is so amazing about this latest turn of events is that some of the same Democrats were accusing President George W. Bush of trying to get out the Hispanic vote when he was trying to push comprehensive immigration reform!

Before he died, but while he was still serving as press secretary, former Fox News Channel Anchor Tony Snow told me that one of the reasons he agreed to take the job at the White House is because he strongly believed in President Bush’s immigration policy. 

Both President Obama and President Bush wanted a sane and legal way to deal with immigrants who are already here and leading productive lives. And both men also wanted a clear way to make sure that America's borders are safe and secure.

Now, President Obama’s efforts have become a political football and the Justice Department's lawsuit is being mocked and driven by a desire to pull in Hispanic voters. -- Nothing could be further than the truth.

In a speech on comprehensive immigration reform last week, President Obama did not pull any punches. He was direct about the broken system and the politics of it. He also talked about how there were more “boots on the ground” at the Southwest border than any time in history and the fact that the border is more secure than anytime in the last twenty years.

The Arizona law is just a distraction. It does not really address the problem of immigrants who are not documented but who are already living in this country, it does not address border security and it makes the job of law enforcement in Arizona a nightmare. 

In addition S.B. 1070 is preempted by federal law and violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. There is broad consensus that Arizona has acted on its own, "going rogue" and that if other states pass their own laws it would mean that each state will end up acting as its own country. 

That is just plain nuts. The possible patch work of individual states setting their own immigration policy exists because Congress can’t get it together to pass a comprehensive law.

The Chiefs of Police in Arizona’s two major cities, Phoenix and Tucson filed briefs accompanying "The United States of America v. The State of Arizona." Their concerns are far-ranging from how to legally handle a woman who may be the victim of domestic violence and may be undocumented to a witness who is also undocumented but helped the police detain a child molester. 

The chiefs also said that they receive valuable information about the illegal drug trade from people who are “unlawfully present but otherwise compliant with the laws of the state.”

In addition, both police chiefs said that the costs, both in terms of money and time, of carrying out Arizona’s law was going to be prohibitive as the booking process takes one to three hours as well as the extra costs to house prisoners. 

The law states that officers determine the immigration status of any person they lawfully stop, detain or arrest if there “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the United States unlawfully, regardless of the severity of the suspected or actual offense.” 

The chiefs are concerned that this represents an unfunded mandate. There is also a part of the law that allows suits directly against the police department if a legal resident feels that the police department limits or restricts enforcement of gederal immigration law. 

That is the kind of legal language that is so broad you could drive a truck through it. It could also be hugely costly for law enforcement.

Given the overall costs of this law -- both in terms of money, foreign policy, and law enforcement -- the Obama administration has no choice but to try and stop its implementation. It is clearly a “get tough” law to satisfy a political constituency. Laws created to pander to a specific don’t work. 

The Obama Justice Department is right to try to prevent Arizona's anti-immigration law from being enacted. The George W. Bush administration most likely would have done the same.

Ellen Ratner is Washington bureau chief for Talk Radio News Service and a Fox News contributor.

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Ellen Ratner joined FOX News Channel as a contributor in October 1997.