Eric Holder told the National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights organization, Saturday he considered the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark June 25 decision rejecting much of Arizona's immigration law "an important step forward" because it helped "to ensure that our nation speaks with one voice on the critical, and complex, issue of immigration."
But he said he remained "seriously concerned" by "the potential impact" of the court's decision to let a key provision of Arizona's Senate Bill 1070 stand -- the part that instructs police to check the immigration status of those detained for "reasonable suspicion" that they are the United States unlawfully.
"Let me assure you -- the Justice Department will monitor the impact of this and other measures to make certain that they do not conflict with federal civil rights or immigration laws," Holder told a luncheon audience of nearly 2,000 people on the opening day of the group's four-day conference in Las Vegas.
"We'll work to ensure, as the court affirmed, that such laws cannot be seen as a license to engage in racial profiling," he said to applause.
"And we'll continue to enforce federal prohibitions against racial and ethnic discrimination, in order -- as President [Barack] Obama has promised -- to 'uphold our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.'"
Obama, who addressed the council's annual conference last year, is to send Vice President Joe Biden to address the group Tuesday.
When Obama spoke to the group last year, he reiterated his "vision for an immigration system that holds true to our values and our heritage, and meets our economic and security needs."
Gutierrez, who ran the Commerce Department in the George W. Bush administration, greeted people at a Latino expo that is part of the conference but didn't address the group.
Romney addressed the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials last month, taking a more conciliatory tone toward illegal immigrants than he took during the Republican primary season.
He said he supported giving legal status to undocumented immigrants who serve in the military. He also said he would "staple a green card" to the diplomas of immigrants who receive advanced degrees.