As the Justice Department weighs a court challenge to the Arizona’s new immigration law, Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that inaction at the federal level has given way to state immigration policies that undermine American values and threaten public safety.
Holder’s remarks, some of his strongest yet on the issue of immigration reform, came during a speech at the Anti-Defamation League’s Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.
The speech was largely overshadowed by the arrest of a suspect in the failed bombing attempt in Times Square and an afternoon news conference at the Justice Department announcing details of the fast-moving investigation.
In his second speech to the ADL in less than a year, Holder said the Arizona law pointed to a dangerous void created by a federal immigration system that “quite simply…must be fixed.”
“It is clear that a failure to act on the federal level is resulting in state policies that undermine our most cherished values and, quite frankly, our safety,” Holder said.
Holder’s speech comes on the heels of a New York Times/ CBS News poll showing that an overwhelming majority of Americans think immigration policies need to overhauled, and that a slim majority support the Arizona law.
The Arizona law gives police wide latitude to detain people suspected of being in the U.S. illegally and check their legal status. The law is already facing several legal challenges.
Holder’s prepared remarks on immigration are below:
[T]he Department is working with agencies across the federal government, and with Congress, to support comprehensive immigration reform in a way that “keeps faith,” as President Obama has said, “with our heritage as both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.”
Our commitment to preserving that heritage is one reason why we are so concerned about the immigration law recently passed in Arizona. It is clear that a failure to act on the federal level is resulting in state policies that undermine our most cherished values and, quite frankly, our safety.
I have serious concerns about the law and its effect on the people of Arizona, citizens and noncitizens alike. I know that, over the past few days, many of you have been encouraging your elected officials to reform our flawed immigration system – and I commend you for this work. Quite simply, our immigration system must be fixed.
During his trip to Las Vegas last month, Attorney General Eric Holder avoided Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), going out of his way to ensure that the two would not be in attendance at the same event, Politico reports. Holder, who let his hair down a bit during his visit, was in Las Vegas to attend several events, including the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) 2009 American Heritage Award Dinner.
Holder was scheduled to appear on stage during the Oct. 17 dinner with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Ensign. However, the event came weeks after the disclosure that Ensign had tried to help find lobbying work for Doug Hampton, a former top aide to Ensign whose wife, Cindy, had a nine-month affair with the senator from 2007 to 2008. Although Ensign has admitted to the affair, he has denied trying to help Hampton find work.
Politico reports that a Justice Department official called the ADL before the event and told them Holder would not attend the dinner if Ensign would also be there. Ensign “graciously agreed” to the request and compromised that Ensign would appear at the event via video, Politico reports.
One of the reasons Holder might have wanted to avoid a run-in with the senator is that DOJ is considering whether to launch a criminal probe into the Ensign matter, Politico reports. DOJ will not confirm whether a probe will take place, although department officials “signal that the case is a low-priority matter for them,” according to Politico. No one close with either Ensign or the Hamptons has been contacted by DOJ investigators, Politico reports.
According to Politico, “Launching a criminal investigation of Ensign based on Hampton’s accusations is fraught with legal and political difficulties for DOJ.” Among them are the fact that only one member of Congress — Republican Bob Ney of Ohio — has ever been convicted of violating the lobbying ban for a former top aide, Politico reports. In addition, the department’s Public Integrity Section “has taken a battering this year,” according to Politico. Doug Hampton also has made numerous public statements about Ensign, which calls into question whether he could be considered a reliable witness, according to Politico.
If DOJ opts not to take up the Ensign case, his future will lie with the Senate Ethics Committee, which has begun a “preliminary review”of the case, according to Politico. Because the panel and DOJ rarely conduct simultaneous investigations, the committee’s steps hint “that DOJ is standing down its own investigation, at least for the moment,” Politico reports.
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Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at an Anti-Defamation League dinner in Las Vegas Sunday evening to denounce hate crimes, including against Jews and Muslim-Americans, the International Jerusalem Post reported today.
While Holder spoke of his support for the proposed Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act – which would expand federal law to protect people discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender or disability — he also addressed law enforcement’s relationship with the Muslim community.
He said, according to his prepared remarks:
“I have heard from Muslim Americans who feel uneasy about their relationship with our government, who feel isolated and discriminated against by law enforcement. They report feeling denied the full rights of citizenship and also, just as importantly, the full responsibilities of citizenship.
I realize that we can become emotionally overwhelmed by acts of terror committed in the name of Islam. We can, perhaps, fail to see that virtually all Muslim Americans are, just like us, trying to do what all Americans wish to do – lead fulfilling, honorable lives, raise their children, love their families, support their communities, and serve their country.”
Holder has spoken often of the continued threat inside the United States from terrorist plots, but he avoids linking that threat directly to Islam. The recent arrest of Najibullah Zazi on suspicion the Afghanistan-born airport shuttle driver was planning to bomb targets in New York City was one of the most serious threats since 9/11, Holder said in a recent discussion with reporters.
At the same time, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been under attack by a prominent Muslim advocacy group since the FBI last year cut off contact with its national leadership after evidence emerged in a Texas trial of their ties to Hamas. Members of the Council on American Islamic Relations have accused the FBI of planting spies in mosques and taking other measures to undermine the civil liberties of Muslim-Americans.
Over the summer, Holder made an unannounced visit to a Los Angeles Mosque, a gesture of community outreach. “The point was to engage the Muslim community here in Los Angeles and make sure they understand this administration’s commitment to work with that community,” Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said at the time.