Department of Justice Will Sue Arizona: An Unpopular Move?

News broke Friday morning that the Department of Justice will indeed sue the state of Arizona over its new immigration law, after Attorney General Eric Holder began contemplating such a case at the behest of President Obama.


Obama has voiced concerns that SB1070 will lead to racial profiling, though he has not denounced the bill outright as many have. He asked Holder to review it amid a national backlash against the bill, felt among liberals and immigration advocacy groups, and the president cast the DoJ's investigation as part of his response to the bill, during a joint appearance with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who denounced SB1070 in no uncertain terms at the White House. Obama's point, it seemed, was that his hands are tied without the votes in Congress to pass comprehensive reform just now, but that asking DoJ to investigate was part of a tempered, studious pushback--that the government would review the new law, and if it saw grounds for a challenge, it would take the opportunity to do so.

Hillary Clinton told an Ecuadorian TV station on June 8 that DoJ will sue Arizona and that Obama himself doesn't agree with the law.

"President Obama has spoken out against the law because he thinks that the federal government should be determining immigration policy," Clinton said.

It's worth pointing out that Arizona's law continues to enjoy broad public support--a fact that gets lost amid the loud criticism and cries of racial discrimination that have been raised since Gov. Jan Brewer signed it in April.

After the initial round of polling showed majority support for the bill both in Arizona and in the rest of the U.S., the latest polling still corroborates. Today, an ABC/Washington Post poll found that Americans support Arizona's law 58% to 41%. Quinnipiac found  51%-31% support for the new law among national respondents in late May. Also in May, CBS found that 52% of national respondents think Arizona's law is "about right," while 28% said it goes "too far" and 17% said it doesn't go far enough. Democrats, even, supported it on the whole: 46% answered "about right," while 40% said "too far" and 10% said "not far enough."

Poll respondents also disapprove of Obama's handling of immigration as an issue. The ABC/Post poll found that 39% approve of Obama on immigration and 51% disapprove. It's unclear whether people disapprove of Obama because they don't like his stance on immigration, because he's not doing enough about it, or for some other reason entirely.

While opinions on immigration are complex, it's reasonable to wonder if the administration's decision to sue Arizona will turn out to be an unpopular move. People support SB1070 by wide margins; it stands to reason that, even amid political pressure to do something in response to the new law, the Obama administration will end up taking heat for their attempt to counter it in court.

The new law is slated to take effect July 29, giving DoJ just over a month to block its implementation, if that's the goal.
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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