In response to the Justice Department's lawsuit [PDF] against Arizona and similar challenges from various civil-rights groups and law-enforcement agencies, Adam and I have noted that for all the outcry over its potential for civil-rights violations, the legal challenges to SB 1070 center around whether the state is pre-empting the federal government's constitutional authority to regulate immigration.
This has led conservative commentators like the National Review's Rich Lowry to question the "sincerity" of the administration's legal argument -- which, if you consider that the primary objective in court is to get a decision in your favor, is pretty naive -- and others to ask whether Obama is avoiding the race issue. But the most immediate consideration is whether the federal suit will prevail in its primary short-term objective: stopping the law from going into effect on July 29. In its initial legal filings, the Justice Department requested a preliminary injunction to do just that.
Even before the Justice Department made its official announcement this week, it was clear the administration would have to do something before the end of the month to avoid alienating Latino voters. Both legally and politically, the administration chose the best strategy. Not only is the Justice Department likely to win the case, the suit will also probably stop SB 1070 from going into effect at all.
The boiled-down standard for granting a preliminary injunction is twofold: a) you have to be "likely to prevail on the merits" and b) convince a judge you'll suffer "irreparable harm" if it's not granted.