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From the New York Times:

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Arizona to challenge a new state law intended to combat illegal immigration, arguing that it would undermine the federal government’s pursuit of terrorists, gang members and other criminal immigrants.

The suit, filed in federal court in Phoenix, had been expected since mid-June, when Obama administration officials first disclosed they would contest the Arizona law, adding to several other suits seeking to have courts strike it down.

The federal government added its weight to the core argument in those suits, which contend that the Arizona law usurps powers to control immigration reserved for federal authorities. The main suit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and other civil rights groups.

The Justice Department argues the law would divert federal and local law enforcement officers by making them focus on people who may not have committed crimes, and by causing the “detention and harassment of authorized visitors, immigrants and citizens.”

“Arizonans are understandably frustrated with illegal immigration,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said. “But diverting federal resources away from dangerous aliens such as terrorism suspects and aliens with criminal records will impact the entire country’s safety.”

The Justice Department suit is also aimed at stemming a tide of similar laws under consideration in other states. “The Constitution and the federal immigration laws do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country,” the suit says.

Justice Department officials are “sending an unmistakable cannon shot across the bow of any other state that might be tempted to follow Arizona’s misguided approach,” said Lucas Guttentag, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project for the A.C.L.U.

The Justice Department asked for a court injunction to prevent the Arizona law from taking effect as scheduled on July 29. Hearings in the other cases are scheduled for July 15 and 22. The law, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer on April 23, makes it a crime to be an illegal immigrant in the state and requires officers to determine the immigration status of people they stop for another offense based on a “reasonable suspicion” that they might be illegal immigrants.

Ms. Brewer assailed the federal lawsuit. “As a direct result of failed and inconsistent federal enforcement, Arizona is under attack from violent Mexican drug and immigrant smuggling cartels,” she said. “Now, Arizona is under attack in federal court from President Obama and his Department of Justice.”

White House officials said Mr. Obama was not involved in the Justice Department’s decision to sue. But the suit came after steps by Mr. Obama in an effort to frame the immigration debate in terms that will favor Democrats in advance of midterm elections in November, including a speech on Thursday when he restated his commitment to overhaul legislation that would give legal status to millions of illegal immigrants.

Read the full story here.

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