PHOENIX (Reuters) - Arizona filed a lawsuit against the federal government on Thursday, alleging that it had failed to provide security along the state’s porous border with Mexico.
The counter suit, filed in federal court in Phoenix, is in response to a government lawsuit last year blocking key parts of Arizona’s tough law cracking down on illegal immigrants.
The desert state straddles a busy smuggling corridor for people and drugs from Mexico, and is the principal gateway for illegal immigrants entering the United States.
“Because the federal government has failed to protect the citizens ... of Arizona, I am left with no other choice,” Gov. Jan Brewer told a news conference in central Phoenix, as several boisterous protesters attempted to shout her down.
“We did not start this fight. But, now that we are in it, Arizona will not rest until our border is secured and federal immigration laws are enforced,” she added.
The suit detailed five counts, including allegations the government had failed to achieve “operational control” over the border, enforce immigration laws and protect Arizona from “harms associated with rampant illegal immigration.”
In Washington, a Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the Arizona suit.
Brewer signed the controversial measure cracking down on illegal immigrants into law last April, sparking protests in Arizona and around the country.
At the heart of the state law is the requirement that police determine the immigration status of a person they have detained and suspect of being in the country illegally.
But before it could take effect last July, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton blocked key parts of the state law, arguing immigration matters are the federal government’s responsibility.
In November, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard arguments in the case. It has yet to issue a ruling.
Brewer said the state would most likely have to pursue its claims all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Writing by Tim Gaynor; editing by Anthony Boadle