Attorney General Terry Goddard said he urged the U.S. Department of Justice not sue Arizona over S1070, saying he would defend the state in any lawsuit brought by the federal government.
Goddard on May 28 met with Department of Justice attorneys at their request, he said, because they wanted to discuss the possibility that they would challenge the state’s strict new illegal immigration law as unconstitutional. Goddard said he told the attorneys that a federal lawsuit would be “a step backwards” and said all legal issues surrounding S1070 would be handled in five other lawsuits that were filed against the law.
“I told them there already five lawsuits that have been filed about 1070 and that every possible argument is being briefed. I told them we need solutions from Washington, not more lawsuits,” Goddard said at a press conference. “I also told the Justice Department lawyers that I intended to defend any lawsuit that might be brought and that I would fight back vigorously.”
Goddard, who signed in as an opponent of S1070 while it was being debated in the Legislature, said the bill is “far from perfect” but that it was a response to federal inaction to serious problems along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In response to federal concerns over racial profiling, Goddard said he believes Arizona law enforcement officers will act fairly and professionally in enforcing the law, which takes effect on July 29.
“I told the lawyers it would be just plain wrong for the federal government to sue to stop Arizona from dealing with something that the federal government itself has ignored for so many years,” he said. “I think the bottom line here is Arizona has an opportunity to make this work. And what I was urging from the Justice Department is that we follow through with that opportunity, that we do everything we can and we plan to do everything we can to make sure that this statute is implemented in the most constitutional, fair and legal manner as possible.”
Goddard, the presumptive Democratic nominee in the governor’s race, said the Justice Department attorneys gave him no indication as to whether they would move forward on the lawsuit they were considering.
Goddard even indicated that he might countersue if the federal government took Arizona to court over the law.
“If I believe there are grounds, I will in fact claim back against the federal government if I think there is any way that Arizona has a claim that they can wage. I believe we are researching right now. We believe that there are some claims that can be made if such a lawsuit is filed,” he said.
Justice Department attorneys also met with representatives of the Governor’s Office, though Brewer’s staff did not provide any information about that meeting.