WASHINGTON (AP) — Justice Department officials told the Arizona attorney general and aides to the governor in face-to-face meetings Friday in Phoenix that the federal government has serious reservations about Arizona's new immigration law.
The Justice Department initiated separate meetings with Democratic Attorney General Terry Goddard and aides to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer in an effort to reach out to Arizona officials and ask a series of questions, hoping to elicit information from state officials regarding the Obama administration's concerns over the new law.
Federal officials fear the state law could lead to widespread racial profiling.
The strong message that the Justice Department representatives delivered at the private meetings — first with Goddard, then with Brewer's staff — left little doubt that the Obama administration is prepared to go to court if necessary in a bid to block the new law, which takes effect July 29.
The federal officials' trip to Phoenix also was an effort to see if the two sides can find common ground in the debate, which has re-ignited immigration as a major political issue nationwide.
A number of other states are considering laws similar to Arizona's, which requires police enforcing another law to investigate the immigration status of people they suspect are in the United States illegally.
Regarding the two meetings, Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller noted that Attorney General Eric Holder met with a number of police chiefs on Wednesday in Washington "to hear their concerns about the impact of the Arizona law on their ability to keep communities safe.
"We continue to have concerns that the law drives a wedge between law enforcement and the communities they serve and are examining it to see what options are available to the federal government," Miller said.
Assistant Attorney General Tony West, head of the Justice Department's civil division, was the senior DOJ participant in the meetings.
U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke of Phoenix also was in both discussions.
Holder's meeting Wednesday with police chiefs from nine jurisdictions was facilitated by the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington, D.C., organization of self-described progressive police executives from the largest city, county and state law enforcement agencies.
The police chiefs said that Arizona's law and similar proposals in other states would lead to an increase in crime, by breaking down the trust that police have built in communities and by diverting law enforcement resources away from fighting crime.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.
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