A memo written by former Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel lawyer Jay Bybee, one of the authors of the so-called “torture memos,” has been cited by the author of the controversial new Arizona immigration law, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
The 2002 memo found that state police officers have “inherent power” and can arrest illegal immigrants. That memo reversed a 1996 OLC opinion which found that that federal law precludes state police from arresting aliens. The 2002 memo has not been withdrawn and the author of Arizona’s tough new immigration law — which makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally — has said he relied on it as the basis for the state law.
“The Justice Department’s official position as of now is that local law enforcement has the inherent authority to enforce federal immigration law,” Robert Driscoll, a former Justice Department Civil Rights Division official in the George W. Bush administration told the Washington Post. “How can you blame someone for exercising authority that the department says they have?”
Supporters of the new law said the fact that the OLC memo is still in force could make it difficult for the Justice Department to challenge Arizona’s law.
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