FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2002 file photo, Jay Bybee testifies before a congressional committee investigating ties between the agency and organized crime in Washington. Justice Department officials have stopped short of recommending criminal charges against Bush administration lawyers who wrote secret memos approving harsh interrogation techniques of terror suspects. (AP Photo, Evan Vucci, File) (Associated Press)

Bush administration defends Arizona immigration law from beyond the grave

Another Jay Bybee memo surfaces to hurt America

Alex Pareene
May 18, 2010 7:01PM (UTC)

Former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel and current federal judge Jay Bybee is known for one thing and one thing only: signing the memo John Yoo wrote telling George Bush he could torture everyone. Turns out that while at the OLC, Bybee signed another memo that ended up justifying Arizona's draconian immigration law.

In 2002, Bybee's OLC reversed a Clinton administration opinion saying state police couldn't arrest undocumented immigrants "on the basis of civil deportability...." Bybee said state police had "inherent power" to enforce federal immigration law.


The Obama administration hasn't gotten around to withdrawing the memo, and the author of the Arizona law actually used the memo—which was released publicly in 2005—to justify his miserable bill. The opinion may make it difficult for Eric Holder to challenge the Arizona law, though I'm not sure why his OLC doesn't just release another memo reestablishing the Clinton-era position.

(There is also, of course, a Bush Justice Department lawyer currently working with publicity-hungry Arizona bigot Joe Arpaio.)

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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