PHOENIX - Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said Friday that President Barack Obama's easing of illegal immigration laws is a "pre-emptive strike" aimed at an impending U.S. Supreme Court ruling that could uphold key parts of the state's immigration enforcement law.
Obama's new policy will give some illegal immigrants a chance to remain in the United States and work if they were brought into the U.S. as children.
Brewer said the change muddies the waters for implementing the Arizona immigration enforcement law because people covered by the new federal policy can get new documentation.
The Supreme Court could rule as early as Monday on the Arizona law, which was enacted two years ago. Lower courts blocked implementation of key parts, including a requirement that police ask about a person's immigration status if an officer reasonably suspects the person is in the country illegally.
"It's a pre-emptive strike against Senate Bill 1070. The timing is unbelievable," Brewer said.
The Republican governor also said the change means that hundreds of thousands of people will be eligible for work permits and will compete with Americans and legal immigrants for jobs.
Brewer, who recently ordered police regulators to re-issue training material on implementing the Arizona law, said state officials will study the implications of Obama's move.
"The crux of Senate Bill 1070, of course, is documentation, and what he has done by his announcement today is he's going to give documentation to nearly a million people that have arrived in our country illegally and not by the rule of law."
Both Brewer and Former Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, the chief sponsor of the Arizona law and now president of the Ban Amnesty Now group, characterized the change as a "backdoor amnesty."
"The effect is just the destruction of the rule of law," said Pearce, who was upset by Obama's announcement. "It's a slap in the face to those who come here legally. It's a slap in the face to the rule of law."
The change marks an unconstitutional end run around Congress and rewards people for breaking the law, Pearce said.
Pearce said he has sympathy for illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as very young children but believes that's not the issue at hand here. "We have laws in this land," he said.
Several Democratic legislators hailed Obama's announcement.
"This is a sensible policy. We should support the young people in our state who are doing the right things and contributing to the betterment of our communities," said House Minority Whip Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson.
Senate Minority Leader David Schapira, D-Phoenix, said the policy change was welcome. However, "comprehensive immigration reform is still needed," Schapira added. "This is a positive step forward while Congress continues to ignore the problem."
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