The Justice Department filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging Arizona's new immigration law.
The department argues that the state law unconstitutionally interferes with the federal government's authority to set and enforce immigration policy.
"Setting immigration policy and enforcing immigration laws is a national responsibility," said Attorney General Holder. "Seeking to address the issue through a patchwork of state laws will only create more problems than it solves."
Warren Stewart Sr., pastor of the First Institutional Baptist Church in Phoenix, along with a group of Arizona lawmakers and Latino communities welcomed the move.
"We thank God the government is on our side today," Stewart said, according to Phoenix Business Journal.
Since the law was passed in April, some religious leaders have protested the legislation, arguing that it is "mean-spirited" and ineffective.
The law, which takes effect late this month, requires immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times, gives police officers the power to question someone’s legal residency if they suspect the person to be an illegal immigrant, and allows officers to arrest someone if they cannot prove their legal residency.
The Department of Justice contends the Arizona law will place significant burdens on federal agencies charged with enforcing the national immigration scheme, diverting resourcse and attention from high-priority targest, such as aliens implicated in terrorism, drug smuggling, and gang activity, and those with criminal records. The state law will also result in the harassment and detention of foreign visitors and legal immigrants, as well as U.S. citizens, who cannot readily prove their lawful status, the suit states.
Arizona Republican Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain blasted the department's decision to sue.
"Attorney General Holder speaks of the 'federal government’s responsibility' to enforce immigration laws; but what are the people of Arizona left to do when the federal government fails in its responsibility?" they asked.
"The American people must wonder whether the Obama administration is really committed to securing the border when it sues a state that is simply trying to protect its people by enforcing immigration law."
Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice is also disturbed by the lawsuit.
"It's troubling that the federal government, which has repeatedly failed to secure our nation's borders, is now attempting to punish the state of Arizona for doing just that," he said, defending the state law as constitutional.
Sekulow plans to file an amicus brief in support of the state law, representing thousands of U.S. citizens and members of Congress.
The lawsuit comes days after President Obama said the Arizona law has the potential of violating the rights of innocent American citizens and legal residents. He called on the federal government to pass immigration reform and was backed by a group of well-known evangelical pastors, including the Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; the Rev. Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church outisde of Chicago; and Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.