Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday said that he hasn't read Arizona's recently adopted anti-illegal immigration law that has generated sharp criticism from the Administration he represents.
In a Department of Justice oversight hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.) said to Holder, "I understand that you may file a lawsuit against the law. Seems to me the Administration ought to be enforcing border security and immigration laws and not challenge them, and that the Administration is on the wrong side of the American people."
Poe then asked Holder point blank, "Have you read the Arizona law?"
Given the Administration's stated antipathy towards this legislation, the response from its Attorney General is sure to shock many Americans on both sides of the aisle (video follows with partial transcript and commentary):
Later during his questioning, Poe further challenged the Attorney General:
REPRESENTATIVE TED POE, (R-TEXAS): So Arizona, since the federal government totally fails to secure the border desperately then passed laws to protect its own people. The law is supported by 70 percent of the people in Arizona, 60 percent of all Americans, and 50 percent of all Hispanics according to the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll done just this week. And I understand that you may file a lawsuit against the law. Seems to me the Administration ought to be enforcing border security and immigration laws and not challenge them, and that the Administration is on the wrong side of the American people. Have you read the Arizona law?
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have not had a chance to, I've glanced at it. I have not read it.
POE: It's ten pages. It's a lot shorter than the healthcare bill which was 2,000 pages long. I'll give you my copy of it if you would like to have a copy. Even though you haven't read the law, do you have an opinion as to whether it's Constitutional?
HOLDER: I have not really, I have not been briefed yet.
Holder's response will even FURTHER amaze most Americans on both sides of the aisle:
POE: You have some concerns about the statute. It's hard for me to understand how you would have concerns about something being un-Constitutional if you haven't even read the law. Seems like you wouldn't make a judgment about whether it violates civil rights statutes, whether it violates federal preemption concepts if you hadn't read the law. So, can you help me out there a little bit, how you can make a judgment call on that, but you haven't read the law and determined whether it's Constitutional or not?
HOLDER: Well, what I've said is that I've not made up my mind. I've only made, made the comments that I've made on the basis of things that I've been able to glean by reading newspaper accounts, obviously, looking at television, talking to people who are on the review panel, on the review team that are looking at the law. But I've not reached any conclusions as yet with regard to. I've just expressed concerns on the basis of what I've heard about the law. But I'm not in the position to say at this point, not having read the law, not having had the chance to interact with people doing the review, exactly what my position is.
Yep. The most powerful law enforcement official in our nation hasn't bothered reading an important, sixteen-page bill that he and the Administration have been making negative comments about since it was passed weeks ago.
Instead, he's relied on "newspaper accounts" and "looking at television" to establish his opinion.
You really can't make this stuff up!
This weekend Mr. Holder told NBC's "Meet the Press" program that the Arizona law "has the possibility of leading to racial profiling." He had earlier called the law's passage "unfortunate," and questioned whether the law was unconstitutional because it tried to assume powers that may be reserved for the federal government.
Here's the video and transcript of that segment:
*****Update II: Hot Air's Ed Morrissey deliciously asks, "Say, isn't Holder profiling Arizonans?"
DAVID GREGORY, HOST: Two other matters before we are out of time. Arizona: What is specifically wrong with the anti-immigration law that has been passed there, and are you close to filing a legal challenge to it?
HOLDER: Well, one of the things I think we have to acknowledge is that our immigration system is broken in many ways, and I think it requires a national solution. The concern I have is trying to do it state by state. I understand the frustration of people in Arizona, but the concern I have about the law that they have passed is that I think it has the possibility of leading to racial profiling and putting a wedge between law enforcement and a community that would, in fact, be profiled. People in that community are less likely then to cooperate with people in law enforcement, less likely to share information, less likely to be witnesses in a case that law enforcement is trying to solve.
MR. GREGORY: So you're close to filing a legal challenge to it?
MR. HOLDER: We are considering all of our options, and we--one of the things that we are thinking about is the possibility of filing, filing a lawsuit. But we're considering all of our options at this point. Whether or not it is something that we can file a lawsuit based on federal pre-emption grounds, whether we think that the law as enacted could violate federal civil rights statutes.