Arizona is counter-suing the US government, charging that Washington has failed to protect it from an invasion of illegal immigrants and related violent crime, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said on Thursday.
The lawsuit, which seeks US federal compensation, is in response to a federal lawsuit filed by US President Barack Obama’s administration last year challenging Arizona’s enforcement of a new immigration law along the US-Mexican border.
“Our citizens have lived with this dark cloud for too long ... It’s time for the federal government to do its job and secure the border,” Brewer said as she announced the lawsuit outside the federal courthouse in Phoenix.
The lawsuit notably charges that the US federal government has failed to reimburse Arizona for more than US$760 million in costs for incarcerating illegal immigrants.
“While control of the border is a federal responsibility, illegal aliens who successfully cross the border and commit crime in Arizona become an Arizona responsibility,” Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said.
Brewer said the boundary between Arizona and Mexico remains a dangerous place despite stepped-up enforcement along the nearly 4,900km border by federal authorities.
She also cited the recent death of a US Border Patrol officer as evidence of illegal incursions across the border by criminal drug cartels.
“Our border and immigration system are still broken,” she said.
The lawsuit also seeks compensation from the federal government for the cost to the state of securing the border. Brewer claimed fighting illegal immigration had cost the state more than US$1 billion, funds the state simply does not have while facing a serious budget crisis. She said that the legal action was being paid for with private funds and is not costing taxpayers. Horne said he expects the lawsuit to be settled in the US Supreme Court.
However, other state officials challenged Brewer over the merits of another legal fight with the government.