Holder is criticized for comments on Ariz. immigration law, which he hasn't read

By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 14, 2010; 4:11 PM

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has said that Arizona's tough new immigration law could drive a wedge between police and immigrant communities. He has expressed concerns it could lead to racial profiling, and he has made it clear that his Justice Department is considering a lawsuit to block the legislation from taking effect.

But what Holder has not done, as least as of Thursday, is read the law: an admission that continued to draw criticism Friday from some talk-radio hosts and conservative Web sites.

The fuss began with a simple question from Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.) at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday.

"Have you read the Arizona law?" Poe asked.

"I have not had a chance. I grant that I have not read it," Holder acknowledged.

Poe, after helpfully pointing out that the 10-page law is "a lot shorter than" the Obama administration's health-care overhaul bill, said he couldn't understand "how you would have concerns about something being unconstitutional if you haven't even read the law. It seems like you wouldn't make a judgment about whether it violates civil right statutes, whether it violate federal preemption concepts, if you haven't read the law."

Holder said he based his public comments about the legislation on reading news reports, watching television and talking to Justice Department lawyers who are reviewing it. "I've not reached any conclusions as yet" about the law's constitutionality, he said, adding that he will soon "spend a good evening reading that law."

"Holder's 2-faced Lie On AZ Immigration Law,'' the conservative Townhall.com headlined a video clip of the exchange, while Andrew McCarthy, a former federal terrorism prosecutor, blogged on NationalReview.com that the attorney general "hasn't read the Arizona immigration law, even though reading the law is the basic duty of any lawyer (let alone the U.S. Attorney General) who is called on to assess a legal situation."

Holder's spokesman, Matthew Miller, said Friday that his boss "has been thoroughly briefed on the law, which has already been amended since the initial version passed, and has heard concerns from a range of law enforcement and community officials. He and the Department will continue to review it in detail to determine what options are available to the federal government."

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