Three Republican senators want to prevent the federal government from suing states that pass immigration laws.
In the near future, Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Jim DeMint of South Carolina and David Vitter of Louisiana are likely to introduce legislation doing just that, according to the Huntsville Times.
“The Justice Department needs to stop going after states that are taking steps in harmony with federal laws to see that our immigration laws actually are enforced and to help end the lawlessness,” Sessions said, adding that the federal government should focus on counties and municipalities that offer sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.
A news release on Vitter’s website stated that similar legislation proposed in 2010 received the support of five Democratic senators, including four still in office: Sens. Max Baucus (D-Montana), Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska), Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) and Jon Tester (D-Montana).
Since last year, the Justice Department has filed suit against three states that passed immigration laws.
In 2010, the Justice Department successfully sued Arizona, when a judge issued an injunction against the state’s controversial immigration law, S.B. 1070, which was passed earlier in the year.
Alabama was sued by the Justice Department in August, after the state passed a similar law, H.B. 56. While U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn upheld most of the law, that decision is currently being challenged in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
And on October 31, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against South Carolina for passing an immigration law set to take effect in January 2012.
After the Justice Department filed a suit against South Carolina, Assistant Attorney General Tony West, head of the DOJ’s Civil Division, told reporters in a conference call that the department has been in talks with attorneys general from Indiana, Georgia and Utah over similar laws passed by those states. He added that the South Carolina lawsuit “makes clear once again that the Justice Department will not hesitate to challenge a state’s immigration law.”
The department has insisted that the state-level immigration legislation violates federal civil rights statutes and that states have no right to pass immigration laws which effectively hinder the the federal government’s authority to formulate foreign policy.
According to Paul Horowitz, a University of Alabama law professor interviewed by the Huntsville Times, the legislation proposed by Sessions, Vitter and Demint appears to be aimed at limiting financing for the the DOJ lawsuits.
“It’s worth noting that Senator Sessions doesn’t say in his press release that the Justice Department’s position in the lawsuit is groundless,” he said. “Senator Sessions and his colleagues are just saying they don’t want to pay for the lawsuit to be pursued.”