After Hillary Clinton said on Ecuadorian television that the Justice Department "will bring a lawsuit" against Arizona over its new immigration-enforcement bill, a senior official in the Obama administration confirmed her remarks and said the department was finishing building its case. Earlier today the Justice Department said it was "continuing to review the law." Quick change of heart, huh?
This whole thing played out in typical Washington fashion: political leaders cautiously expressed "concern" and promised to "examine their options" for action, there was a leak, a denial, and finally, an admission (cue outrage from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer). Really, it was only a matter of time before the Justice Department announced it would be suing Arizona. The Obama administration has been able to bide its time because the law doesn't take effect until August, but Clinton's admission put a stop to all the political hedging.
If the law indeed went into effect a few months from now, it would be a political disaster for the administration. Latino groups are already disappointed in the president's failure to deliver on immigration reform in his first year and angry at the incredible spike in deportations under his watch. A year and a half into his presidency, Obama has continued the Bush-era tack of increasing immigration enforcement without reforming the convoluted and outdated system of laws that many immigrant-rights advocates say are the real problem. Fighting the Arizona bill in court would reassure Latino voters that Obama is committed to the "reform" piece of the "reform-and-enforce" equation of an immigration overhaul. But in the longer term, he'll have to do more than just stop the immigration situation from getting worse.
-- Gabriel Arana