Administration hopes to use the backlash against Arizona's proposed crackdown on illegal immigration to fuel the drive to move immigration reform.
President Obama is directing the Justice Department to look at Arizona's proposed crackdown on illegal immigration, fearing that asking police to demand proof of citizenship will lead to civil rights violations.
The White House hopes to use the backlash against Arizona to fuel the drive to move an immigration bill through Congress, something that would be a heavy lift in an election year. "If we continue to fail to act at a federal level," Obama warned, "we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country."
The Arizona bill, which was signed into law on Friday, threatens "to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe." [Updated from earlier version].
The state measure allows police to stop and question anyone they suspect is not a citizen. It has sparked an uproar from a Latino community fearful of profiling.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the president telephoned some Republican senators this week to ask them to support immigration reform. The calls were to keep a promise he made to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
"The president committed to call five Republicans, which he did this week, to try to seek support,' said Gibbs. "We are going to need both Republicans and Democrats."
Graham and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., have been trying to forge a comprehensive immigration bill. Schumer is expected to unveil a detailed proposal next week.
The Cato Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union held a briefing Friday to denounce one provision backed by Schumer and Graham that would require all workers to have Social Security cards containing a biometric identifier, such as a fingerprint.
Christopher Calabrese, ACLU's legislative counsel, said problems with the Arizona legislation reveal the flaws in requiring workers to have a biometric identification card. He said the law would essentially require people "to carry their papers" or be detained by police.
"We're talking about fingerprinting the entire U.S. working population," he said. "You're treating them like criminals."
Jim Harper, Cato's director of information policy studies, said biometric identification cards are untested. He added that some people, such as construction workers, do not have fingerprints that could be read.
Schumer and Graham have said that they do not believe a centralized database of biometric information should be created. But Harper disputed that, saying "it is practically almost assured" that a centralized system would evolve.