PHOENIX – Gov. Jan Brewer sued the federal government Thursday for failing to control Arizona’s border with Mexico and enforce immigration laws, and for sticking the state with huge costs associated with jailing illegal immigrants who commit crimes.
The lawsuit claims the federal government has failed to protect Arizona from an “invasion” of illegal immigrants. It seeks increased reimbursements and extra safeguards, such as additional border fences.
Brewer’s court filing serves as a countersuit in the federal government’s legal challenge to Arizona’s new enforcement immigration law. The U.S. Justice Department is seeking to invalidate the law.
“Because the federal government has failed to protect the citizens of Arizona, I am left with no other choice,” Brewer said as sign-carrying protesters yelled chants at her and at other champions of the immigration law.
Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler declined to comment on the filing. But a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is in charge of policing the country’s borders, called Brewer’s lawsuit a meritless action and said Border Patrol staffing is higher than ever.
Brewer’s lawsuit seeks a court order that would require the federal government to take extra steps to protect Arizona – such as more border fences – until the border is controlled. Brewer also asks for additional border agents and technology along the state’s border with Mexico.
The governor isn’t seeking a lump-sum award, but rather asks for policy changes in the way the federal government reimburses states for the costs of jailing illegal immigrants who are convicted of state crimes. Such changes would give the state more reimbursement.
Arizona’s enforcement law would have required police, while enforcing other laws, to question a person’s immigration status if officers had reasonable suspicion the person was in the country illegally. That requirement was put on hold by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, along with a mandate that immigrants obtain or carry immigration registration papers.
The judge, however, let other parts of the law take effect, such as a provision that bans people from blocking traffic while seeking or offering day-labor services on streets.
Brewer challenged Bolton’s decision in an appeals court in San Francisco. She argued the judge erred by accepting speculation by the federal government that the law might burden legal immigrants, and by concluding the federal government likely would prevail. Brewer’s appeal is still pending.