Immigration Advocates Rising Up in Anger Across the Nation Over New Arizona Law

Public furor is mounting across the nation over Arizona's new "show me your papers or go to jail" immigration law.

One Hispanic congressman, Raul Grijalva (D-Tucson) is urging tourists and national conventions to boycott his state.

Another, our own Jose Serrano (D-Bronx), wants baseball owners to yank the All-Star Game from Phoenix next year.

"Major League Baseball needs to revisit the issue of whether the All-Star Game, one of America's greatest televised exports to Latin America, should be played in a state that doesn't show any respect to Latinos," Serrano said.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder said he may step in to challenge the new law, which permits police to stop residents merely on the "reasonable suspicion" that they are unlawfully in the country.

Given that 30% of Arizona's population is Hispanic and 10% is Native American, you can bet many dark-skinned legal residents and citizens will be victims of this new police authority.

In Arizona, carry your birth certificate or passport at all times.

Another provision of the new law, aimed at day laborers, makes it a misdemeanor for an undocumented immigrant to solicit work on public streets.

The law's bizarre definition of soliciting is: "any verbal or nonverbal communication by a gesture or a nod that would indicate to a reasonable person that a person is willing to be employed."

This is "a mandate to harass anyone who looks or sounds foreign," said Alessandra Soler Meetze, director of the American Civil Liberties Union in that state.

Even Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said yesterday he thinks the law is unconstitutional.

Since Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the law Friday, immigrant rights advocates say they've seen a huge surge of interest in scores of immigration rallies scheduled for Saturday, May Day. The two biggest local events will be at Union Square and Foley Square.

"People are sad and fearful that Arizona's example will spread to other states," said Saul Linares of the Immigrant Workplace Project on Long Island.

Linares hasn't seen this much fervor around immigration since the spring of 2006.

Back then, Congress was debating the Sensenbrenner bill, which sought to make being in the country illegally a felony, rather than a violation.

That spring, millions of people poured into the streets of more than 100 cities in historic protests to demand a path for legalization for the country's 12 million undocumented.

The marchers defeated the Sensenbrenner bill, but a Republican-controlled Congress refused President Bush's entreaties to fix our broken immigration system.

This time around, the Democrats are in charge, but they have continued to ignore the problem. So right-wing extremists in the Arizona legislature have taken matters in their own hands.

Arizona makes clear why immigration is a federal responsibility. Congress needs to stop ducking and hiding and fix the problem now.

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