UPDATED: Arizona says it acted because the federal government had failed to act & protect it from by illegal immigrants, & America agrees.
As noted in numerous posts, this anticipated action by the Department of Justice [in filing a suit last Tuesday attempting to block Arizona from enforcing an anti-immigration law] is not going to help Democrats in November, regardless of what Obama's advisors may think.
The following discussion was added in an updated version of the same Wall Street Journal article that was the subject of the earlier post:
The Obama administration set up a legal battle over states' rights and heightened the political stakes on immigration for both parties by filing a suit to block Arizona's tough new immigration law.
The suit comes as immigration is emerging again as a prominent political issue, particularly in states with large Hispanic populations.
Precedent suggests the Obama administration has the upper hand in the suit. Federal courts, dating back to laws in the 1880s aimed at limiting Chinese immigration, have given the federal government wide latitude to regulate such matters. But in recent decades, courts have also allowed state laws that rely on federal law, such as those denying state benefits to illegal immigrants.
More broadly, federal courts have sided with the federal government in cases of states and cities passing laws that conflict with federal law.
The lawsuit comes as President Barack Obama and his party are trying to energize a Democratic base that is far less enthusiastic about voting this November than are core Republican voters. At the same time, Democrats have been stymied in trying to move an overhaul of immigration laws through Congress, which strategists say has depressed enthusiasm among Hispanic voters.
White House officials say political considerations did not play a part in the decision to file the lawsuit. Still, Democrats hope that challenging the Arizona law will further solidify the party's reputation for advocating for the Hispanic community.
Some analysts said Tuesday that the Democrats face a tricky balance, given a potential backlash from white, middle-class voters who support the Arizona effort by wide margins in some polls.
In a June Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey, 45% of respondents said they would be enthusiastic or comfortable with a candidate who favors the Arizona law, while just 38% said they would have reservations or be very uncomfortable.
Among white voters, and among voters most interested in the fall elections, an outright majority supported the Arizona law.
For Republicans, the law has been a rallying cry that has boosted support in a year of anti-Washington sentiment.
Indeed, some supporters of Tuesday's lawsuit said it brings political risks for the president and his party in competitive states. In Colorado, for example, a recent poll found that 61% of respondents wanted an Arizona-style law for their state.
In Arizona, where the law has wide support, even Democrats said that suing the state would not be productive. Instead, they have called on the federal government to address the broken immigration system and bolster security.
Attention to the Arizona law could also present risks to some Republicans in states with large Hispanic populations, said Democratic pollster Tom Jenson of Public Policy Polling.
More troubling for Republicans, analysts said, may be the risk that the GOP develops an anti-immigrant reputation that carries into the 2012 presidential election, when the race will focus on several key states with large Hispanic populations.
Legal experts say the weakest part of the Arizona law is language that makes unlawful presence in the country a state crime. That appears to conflict with federal law, which makes unlawful presence a civil offense but does not classify it as a crime, legal experts say.
But some supporters say the Arizona law has strengths that could provide courts the opportunity to block only some parts of the law, while keeping much of it intact. The law allows other sections to stand even if a portion were to be declared unconstitutional.