WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama criticized Arizona's tough immigration bill as irresponsible Friday and said his administration is examining whether it would violate civil rights.
Obama said the federal government must act responsibly to reform national immigration law – or "open the door to irresponsibility by others."
"That includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threaten 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," Obama said.
If signed into law by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, the legislation would require police to question people about their immigration status if there's reason to suspect they're in the country illegally. Civil rights activists say such a law would lead to racial profiling and deter Hispanics from reporting crimes.
Obama instructed the Justice Department to examine the bill to see if it would violate civil rights.
Obama spoke at a naturalization ceremony in the Rose Garden for 24 active duty service members from more than a dozen countries. He commended the new U.S. citizens for serving a country they could not yet call their own, while following a legal path to citizenship.
Obama said he will continue to work with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to enact a comprehensive overhaul of immigration law. He said there are 11 current Republican senators who have voted for immigration reform in the past.
Brewer, a Republican, has until Saturday to act on the immigration bill sent to her desk. She can sign, veto or allow it to become law without her signature.
"If we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country," Obama said. "As a nation, as a people, we can choose a different future."