Arizona’s governor announced Thursday plans to countersue the federal government in order to fully enforce the recently enacted state law allowing law enforcement officers to check people’s immigration status.
Gov. Jan Brewer highlighted in the press conference the federal government’s failure to protect its borders and said the state needed immigration reform to protect its resources.
“Because the federal government has failed to protect the citizens of Arizona, I am left with no other choice,” she stated.
Arizona is a border state, along with three other states, that lies on the line between Mexico and the United States.
According to statistics by the Department of Homeland Security, Arizona has one of the fastest growing illegal immigrant populations in the country, increasing from 330,000 in 2000 to 560,000 in 2008.
Further complicating the issue, Mexico’s border communities are currently engaged in a violent drug war that is claiming the lives of people on both sides of the border.
U.S. missionaries Sam and Nancy Davis were attacked with semiautomatic weapons Jan. 26 while driving back to the United States from a mission trip. Nancy Davis, 59, was killed in the gun fire at an illegal roadblock on a highway just south of the border city of Reynosa. Their attackers are suspected drug smugglers.
More recently, two American Catholic school students were gunned down Feb. 4 in Juarez after crossing the border to spend time with a friend.
"We in Arizona are very concerned about the violence that's taking place because of the drug cartels and the human smuggling and the criminal behavior that's taken place," Brewer said.
The state’s legislature passed the Support our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act in order to deal with the state’s illegal immigrant population. The Justice Department sued, with the authorization of President Barack Obama, to null provisions allowing law enforcement officers to check people’s residency status based on suspicion. Critics of Arizona’s immigration law have compared it to racial profiling.
Many Christian groups related to mainline denominations are also concerned about Arizona’s immigration law and the proposed immigration laws by other states that have been influenced by Arizona.
In an open letter in January, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service expressed opposition to recently proposed immigration laws that would require at least one parent to show that they are a U.S. citizen or legal resident in order for the baby to have Arizona citizenship and by default U.S. citizenship.
"For people of faith committed to loving the sojourners in their congregations and communities as God instructs, it is devastating to see immigrants and their children placed at further risk," wrote Jeffrey Hawks, LIRS assistant director for education and outreach, in the open letter.
But some conservative leaders contend that God expects His people to follow the laws of their host nation, and that the government is divinely ordained to uphold the nation’s rules.
In response to Arizona’s counter lawsuit, the Department of Homeland Security has called the case “a meritless court claim” that “does nothing to secure the border.”