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Today's Top News
Protests Begin as Immigration Bill Waits on Arizona Governor’s Desk
PHOENIX – Protests have begun at the state capitol today as a controversial immigration bill waits on Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s desk.
Arizona senators passed a bill Monday that would require law enforcement officers to question anyone they believe might be in the country illegally.
Some students chained themselves to the door at the capitol on Tuesday, but were later unchained and detained by police.
The bill passed
on Monday by a vote of 17-11.
"I'm in a celebratory nature, I'm going out to have a drink," said Kathryn Kobor, a supporter of Senate Bill 1070.
Passage sends the bill to Gov. Jan Brewer, who has not taken a position on the measure championed by fellow Republicans and already signed by the House.
According to Brewer's spokesperson, she now has until 5 p.m. Saturday to act on the bill.
Brewer can sign the bill, veto it or do nothing, which would still allow the bill to become law.
"It's morally inconsiderate and not right. It's not right," said Sonnia Whiteman, an opponent of SB 1070.
It appears some of the nation's prominent religious leaders would agree with Whiteman.
In a Sunday post on his blog, Los Angeles archbishop Roger Mahony likened the potential law to "German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques whereby people are required to turn one another in to the authorities."
Though Governor Brewer has yet to speak out about the bill, she now has five days to sign the bill into law or veto it, sending it back to the legislature.
Opponents of the Senate Bill 1070 held a vigil outside the State Capitol during the lunch-hour Monday, showing solidarity in their hope for her veto.
Nearly 30 opponents of the bill also held a candlelight vigil outside Brewer's home Sunday night in protest.
Members of the group said they believe the law would give local law enforcement license to racially profile.
"The bottom line of what (SB 1070) does is victimize an entire class of people," said Antonio Bustamante with the Hispanic Bar Association. "It's a Bill of Rights for racial profiling."
The law would require police to question people about their immigration status if there is any reason to believe they are in the country illegally.
"Right now, the way things are being targeted, is that all Latinos are undocumented, and that's absolutely not true," said protester Alejandra Gomez. "I'm a citizen, and if I'm pulled over, that's ridiculous. It's unjust, it's immoral and it's inhumane."
The bill is sponsored by Senator Russell Pearce.
"I find it amazing that we continue to debate an issue that's so simple to me -- enforce the laws," said Pearce at a recent meeting.
Supporters say the bill uncuffs law enforcement to protect the state from violent criminals. U.S. Sen. John McCain endorsed the measure Monday.
"I think the people of Arizona understandably are frustrated and angry," the Arizona Republican said. "It's also a commentary on the frustration that our state Legislature has that the federal government has not fulfilled its constitutional responsibilities to secure our borders."
An editorial in The New York Times calls the bill "harsh and mean-spirited."
It says the bill "is a grab bag of measures to enlist law enforcement and government at every level to expose and expel the undocumented."
Some local law enforcement agencies take the view that the new rules would leave them vulnerable to lawsuits if officers are perceived not to be aggressive enough, and that it puts a burden on them to enforce more laws when they are already stretched thin from budget cuts.
"If we've got to ship them down to MCSO -- they charge us, and they charge us a lot, and it will bankrupt our city," said Mesa Police Sgt. Bryan Soller, who is president of the Fraternal Order of Police Mesa Lodge's No. 9.
The bill would also make it illegal to block traffic when looking for or picking up day laborers, and would put aliens who are not carrying their green cards at risk of arrest.
"I understand the value of handcuffs, when they're on the right people," said Pearce.