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Waiting for DHS action as DOJ Responds to Civil Rights Disaster in Alabama

Amid all the injustices undocumented immigrants are currently facing in their home states as state legislatures have passed law that specifically targets their lives and families, and despite the fact that these Arizona-style initiatives seem to be being implemented ever more often, the U.S. government is taking legal action to try to counter their policies. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is challenging state legislatures that pass immigration enforcement laws that interfere with the federal government’s role in enforcing immigration laws and settling priorities. This week, the DOJ announced that it was filing suit in South Carolina to block their law (Act No. 69, formerly known as SB 20). The DOJ argues that the law is unconstitutional and interferes with the federal government’s ability to set and enforce immigration policy and is likely to result in civil rights violations. The DOJ’s effort on this case reflects their commitment to protecting constitutional principles and individual rights-a commitment that should extend to pursuing vigorous challenges in other states that have passed similar laws, including Georgia, Indiana, and Utah, where although the DOJ has initiated lawsuits, their approach has generally lacked teeth. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also has a strong role to play and should respond to the civil rights crisis taking place in the states and make good on Secretary Napolitano’s assurance that her agency will not be complicit in enforcing Alabama’s new law through federal immigration enforcement actions. As theAmerican Immigration Council pointed out, if one agency of the government is arguing that Alabama’s law is unconstitutional, another agency, DHS, should act consistently and closely review the cases of all immigrants brought to their attention as a result of Alabama’s new law and exercise appropriate discretion. After all, good government requires there be a certain degree of consistency across its agencies. Both the DOJ and DHS should treat the implementation of Alabama’s new anti-immigrant law as the civil rights crisis that it is and respond diligently and do so swiftly.

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