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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer abruptly suspends state's attorney general from illegal immigrant law defense

May 28, 2010 | 11:22 pm

Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer

A sudden new twist in the ongoing rhetorical and legal struggle over Arizona's tough new law to round up illegal immigrants.

Late Friday night as the Memorial Day weekend began, Arizona's Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, in effect, suspended the state's Democratic attorney general from defending the new law in upcoming legal challenges. The measure, known as S.B. 1070, is due to take effect this summer and, among other things, allows local police under federal guidelines to check the immigration status of people they stop. (For a full list of background stories, see Related Items below.)

The governor's abrupt action against Terry Goddard, her likely Democratic opponent in this fall's gubernatorial election, came after months of disputes between the two and at the end of a long day of legal maneuvering in both Arizona and the nation's capital.

As the state's chief lawyer, Goddard would be expected to take the lead in defending Arizona against....

...challenges to the Legislature's action, which erupted after years of state frustration with the federal government's inability to secure the state border with Mexico against illegal immigrants, drugs and criminals.

However, Goddard has vocally opposed the measure, so much so that the Legislature gave the governor advance authority to hire outside legal counsel.

On Friday, Goddard met with the Obama administration's Atty. Gen. Eric Holder in Washington, then held a news conference just hours before Brewer's handpicked attorneys were to meet with Holder, an outspoken critic of the law.

Brewer said, "I believe the federal government should use its legal resources to fight illegal immigration, not the State of Arizona."

Seeing apparent collusion between the two Democrat lawyers, Brewer pulled the plug Friday night.

Her statement (full text below) said:

Due to Attorney General Goddard’s curious coordination with the U.S. Department of Justice today and his consistent opposition to Arizona’s new immigration laws, I will direct my legal team to defend me and the State of Arizona rather than the Attorney General in the lawsuits challenging Arizona’s immigration laws.

Despite widespread criticism in the media and the Obama administration, whose officials including Holder admitted they had not actually read the legislation, numerous polls have shown deep support for the measure nationally and within Arizona.

And that approval has transferred over to Brewer, who was trailing Goddard early this year in polls of a hypothetical matchup come Nov. 2. Brewer inherited the governor's office last year when Janet Napolitano resigned to accept the man-caused nomination of Homeland Security secretary from President Obama.

Brewer has sought to meet with the now-vacationing Obama during a trip to Washington next week. But the Democrat has been unable to fit the Republican governor and the border issue into his impossible schedule.

Related items:

82% of Americans oppose a boycott of Arizona over its new illegal immigrant law

In her own words: Gov. Jan Brewer responds to Obama's border troop decision

Arizona Gov. Brewer's approval surges past 50% after signing illegal immigrant law

Joe Biden update: Mexican Pres. Calderon's speech prompts deep thoughtzzz

Obama folks having real t-r-o-u-b-l-e reading Arizona's new i-l-l-e-g-a-l immigrant l-a-w

Los presidentes Calderon y Obama talk about the sensitive border issue

A California mayor wants to hang out the illegal immigrants Unwelcome sign

Support broadens among Americans for Arizona's illegal immigrant law

See for yourself: Complete text of the Arizona law and executive order

Arizona Gov. Brewer explains signing nation's toughest immigration bill

So what does the new Arizona law actually do?

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Full text of Statement by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer

Today the legal team I have appointed to defend the State of Arizona in the legal challenges to Arizona’s new immigration laws met with senior officials from the United States Department of Justice. The meeting was held at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice.  

The Department attorneys were advised that I believe the federal government should use its legal resources to fight illegal immigration, not the State of Arizona.

They were further advised that on behalf of the State of Arizona, I will ensure the immigration laws we passed are vigorously defended all the way to the United States Supreme Court if necessary.Arizona state Flag

For some inexplicable reason, the Department of Justice officials met with the Arizona Attorney General hours before meeting with the State of Arizona’s legal team, and then allowed the Attorney General to hold a press conference to discuss the meeting.  

This level of coordination between the Attorney General and the Obama Administration is disturbingly similar to the coordination with Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords earlier this week on President Obama’s still unclear plan to deploy up to 1,200 National Guard troops to the border.  

Due to the Attorney General’s opposition to Arizona’s immigration laws as set forth in S.B. 1070, the Legislature required Attorney General Goddard to act at the direction of the Governor in any challenge to S.B. 1070 as amended by H.B. 2162.   The Legislature also gave the Governor authority to hire outside counsel if necessary to defend the law on behalf of the State instead of using the Attorney General. 

The Legislature gave me this authority because of its lack of confidence in the Attorney General’s willingness to vigorously defend this legislation that is so critical to protecting the safety and welfare of Arizona’s citizens.  Last year, I instructed the Attorney General to change his position on behalf of the State of Arizona in the Horne v. Flores case involving a challenge to the Arizona’s English language learner laws.  He refused and the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately rejected his position.

Due to Attorney General Goddard’s curious coordination with the U.S. Department of Justice today and his consistent opposition to Arizona’s new immigration laws, I will direct my legal team to defend me and the State of Arizona rather than the Attorney General in the lawsuits challenging Arizona’s immigration laws.    ####

Photo: Fox News Channel (Brewer).

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