WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats on Wednesday turned back a move by Republicans to block the Justice Department from pursuing its lawsuit seeking to overturn Arizona's controversial immigration law.
The bid by South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint to nix the lawsuit came out on the losing end of a 55-43 vote. Five Democrats voted to block the lawsuit while two Republicans voted against the measure.
The law requires officers, while enforcing other laws, to check a person's immigration status if there's a reasonable suspicion the person is in this country illegally.
The administration argues that the law is unconstitutional because immigration is a federal responsibility. Some claim the law will result in racial profiling.
The law has whipped up election-year passions, but most vulnerable Democrats stayed behind the administration despite polling that shows voters generally support the controversial law. Hispanic voters are a valuable Democratic-leaning constituency.
The Justice Department lawsuit is one of seven that have been filed against the new law, which goes into effect July 29.
"There's nothing in there about racial profiling except that you can't do it, and you can't stop someone if you suspect them of being illegal," DeMint said. "You can only ask for documentation if you stop them or arrest them for some other crime."
DeMint sought to add the measure as an amendment to legislation to extend unemployment benefits for millions of people who have been out of work for six months or more.
Democrats voting to block the lawsuit were: Max Baucus and John Tester of Montana; Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas; and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Republicans Mike Johann of Nebraska and George Voinovich of Ohio broke with their party in voting against the amendment.