Mike McWherter slams lawsuit against Arizona
Posted: Thursday, July 8, 2010 9:06 pm
By ERIK SCHELZIG
Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike McWherter on Wednesday denounced the federal government’s lawsuit against Arizona’s tough new immigration law.
McWherter, the only Democrat running to succeed term-limited Gov. Phil Bredesen, said in a statement that Arizona’s law became necessary “because of Washington’s total failure to deal with the real problem.”
The three main Repub-licans seeking the nomination are Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp of Chattanooga and state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville.
All have spoken in support of the Arizona law that requires officers, while enforcing other laws, to question a person’s immigration status if there’s a reasonable suspicion that they are here illegally, such as speaking poor English, traveling in an overcrowded vehicle or hanging out in an area where illegal immigrants typically congregate.
The law also makes it a state crime for legal immigrants not to carry their immigration documents.
The lawsuit filed in Phoenix on Tuesday sidesteps concerns about the potential for racial profiling and civil rights violations most often raised by immigration advocates. Instead it focuses heavily on the right of the federal government to keep states from enacting laws that usurp federal authority.
McWherter, the son of former Gov. Ned McWherter, joined the Republican candidates in questioning the motivation for the lawsuit.
“Immigration has become another political football in Washington and this lawsuit only continues the game, rather than solves the problem,” he said.
Haslam said he “would support an Arizona-style law” in Tennessee, and criticized the lawsuit.
“It’s unfortunate the federal government is trying to penalize a state for taking action where the federal government has failed,” he said.
Ramsey and Wamp have been the most vocal among the candidates in their desire to join a legal challenge of Democratic President Obama’s federal health care law.
They said the immigration lawsuit shows a similarly misguided approach.
“The primary function of the federal government is to protect its citizens from foreign threats,” Ramsey said in a release. “And if President Obama won’t act, then governors across this nation will act to protect our citizens.”
Wamp said in an e-mailed statement that Tennessee should emulate Arizona.
“We need a law like Arizona’s. Firm but fair,” Wamp said. “And if the federal government won’t enforce the law, then as governor, I will.”
Early voting for the Aug. 5 primary begins next week.
Published in The Messenger 7.8.10