Congressman: US Should Fight Ariz. Immigrant Law

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by
Associated Press

Congressman: US Should Fight Ariz. Immigrant Law

by
Jonathan J. Cooper

A sign in protest of immigration bill SB1070 is displayed on the Wesley Boylan Plaza Saturday, April 24, 2010 at the Capitol in Phoenix a day after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill into law. The sweeping measure would make it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally, and would require local law enforcement to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are in the country illegally. Photo: Matt York / AP

PHOENIX — An Arizona congressman urged the Obama administration not to
cooperate when illegal immigrants are picked up by local police if a
tough new state immigration law survives legal challenges.

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva,
a Democrat, and civil rights activists spoke on Sunday to thousands of
people gathered at the state Capitol and called on President Barack Obama to fight the law, promising to march in the streets and invite arrest by refusing to comply.

"We're
going to overturn this unjust and racist law, and then we're going to
overturn the power structure that created this unjust, racist law,"
Grijalva said.

Obama has called the new law "misguided" and instructed the Justice Department
to examine it to see if it's legal. It requires police to question
people about their immigration status — including asking for
identification — if they suspect someone is in the country illegally.
Opponents say it would lead to racial profiling because officers would
be more likely to ask people who look Hispanic.

Supporters
have dismissed concerns about profiling, saying the law prohibits the
use of race or nationality as the sole basis for an immigration check.
Gov. Jan Brewer,
who signed the measure Friday, has ordered state officials to develop a
training course for officers to learn what constitutes reasonable
suspicion someone is in the U.S. illegally.

State Sen. Russell Pearce,
the Mesa Republican who sponsored the legislation, said it's "pretty
disappointing" that opponents would call on the federal government to
refuse to cooperate with Arizona authorities.

"It's outrageous that these people continue to support law breakers over law keepers," Pearce said Sunday.

Protesters,
some of whom came from as far away as Texas, clustered under trees for
shelter from Arizona's searing sun and temperatures that approached 90
degrees. Police said it was peaceful and there were no clashes.

Bill
Baker, 60, took time off work at a downtown Phoenix restaurant to sell
umbrellas and Mexican and American flags to the largely Hispanic crowd.
He said he wasn't making much money, but he wanted to help them
exercise their freedom of expression — even though he supports the law
they all showed up to oppose.

"If
I go to another foreign country, if I go to Mexico, I have to have
papers," Baker said. "So I don't feel there's anything particularly
harsh about the law."

He
said he's worried the bill will hurt the economy if many of Arizona's
estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants leave the state and stop spending
money here.

"But that's the price you have to pay to have a lawful country," Baker said.

Current
law in Arizona and most states doesn't require police to ask about the
immigration status of those they encounter, and many police departments
prohibit officers from inquiring out of fear immigrants won't cooperate
in other investigations.

The
new law makes it a crime under state law to be in the country
illegally. Immigrants unable to produce documents showing they are
allowed to be in the U.S. could be arrested, jailed for up to six
months and fined $2,500. Other provisions allow lawsuits against
government agencies that hinder enforcement of immigration laws, and
the law makes it illegal to hire illegal immigrants for day labor or
knowingly transport them.

Arizona
officers would arrest people found to be undocumented and turn them
over to federal immigration officers. Opponents said the federal
government can block the law by refusing to accept them.

"Our message today is: 'Mr. President we listened, and we came out in record massive numbers to support you,'" said U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. "We need you to support us today."

Gutierrez
is one of the nation's loudest voices calling for comprehensive
immigration reform that would create a pathway to citizenship for the
millions of illegal immigrants now in the United States. He called on
Obama to live up to a campaign promise to pass immigration reform.

The Rev. Al Sharpton,
speaking Sunday in New York, said that just as freedom riders battled
segregation in the 1960s, he would organize "freedom walkers" to
challenge the Arizona bill.

"We
will go to Arizona when this bill goes into effect and walk the streets
with people who refuse to give identification and force arrest,"
Sharpton said.

Arizona's
border with Mexico is the nation's busiest stretch for illegal border
crossings. The state's harsh, remote desert serves as the gateway to
the U.S. for thousands of Mexicans and Central Americans.

"It divides our whole community," said Mary Hoffmann, 54, a landscape architect in Phoenix. "If people are divided they make decisions on fear and anger."

Brewer,
who faces a tough re-election battle and growing anger in the state
over illegal immigrants, said the law "protects every Arizona citizen"
and the state must act because the federal government has failed.
Brewer said she wouldn't tolerate racial profiling.

The March 27 shooting death of rancher Rob Krentz
on his property in southeastern Arizona brought illegal immigration and
border security into greater focus in the state. Authorities believe
Krentz was killed by an illegal border crosser.

Since
the shooting, Brewer and other officeholders and candidates have toured
the state's border with Mexico. She has ordered a reallocation of state
National Guard and law enforcement resources and called on the federal government to deploy National Guard troops.

Associated Press writers Karen Matthews in New York and Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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