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State makes a stand

Immigration: Locals react to Arizona passing controversial law

Posted: April 23, 2010 10:28 p.m.
Updated: April 24, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 
Illegal immigration has been the hot-button issue locally in 2010. A neighboring state is sharing the issue and doing something about it.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer ignored criticism from President Barack Obama on Friday and signed into law a bill supporters said would take handcuffs off police in dealing with illegal immigration in her state, the nation’s busiest gateway for human and drug smuggling from Mexico.

The legislation, sent to the Republican governor by the GOP-led Legislature, makes it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally. It also requires local police officers to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are illegal immigrants; allows lawsuits against government agencies that hinder enforcement of immigration laws; and makes it illegal to hire illegal immigrants for day labor or knowingly transport them.

“We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act,” Brewer said after signing the law. “But decades of inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation.”

Earlier Friday, Obama called the Arizona bill “misguided” and instructed the Justice Department to examine it to see if it’s legal.

Locally, people involved in both sides of the issue weighed in.

David Gauny, who made his anti-illegal immigration stance a major part of his campaign for Santa Clarita City Council, said it would be important for Arizona to make sure officers are cautious about racial profiling.

“You don’t avoid creating or upholding a law simply because of what could happen,” Gauny said. “Train the police officers, minimize profiling and uphold the law.”

Dr. John Fernandez, a teacher at Theodore Roosevelt High School in East Los Angeles and member of the Full Rights for
Immigrants Coalition, said he’s going to discuss the law with his students. He’s concerned it could give Arizona authorities a license to harass Latinos.  

“The law is going to make (police) question people’s immigration status based on their color and appearance,” Fernandez said.

“Before you know it (authorities) are going to be targeting Latinos.”

Meanwhile, members of the Santa Clarita Valley Independent Minutemen were thrilled to hear the bill was signed into law and hoped California could follow suit and pass something similar in the future, said Roger Gitlin, the group’s leader.

“I think it’s a tremendous idea. I think Arizona is setting the stage for other states to follow,” Gitlin said. “It’s holding the federal government responsible to do its job, which is to protect our border.

“We have a war going on at our borders. (Obama) fails to send federal troops to the border. And because of that, innocent people are being killed every day (by illegal immigrants).”

Gitlin said he expects liberals to challenge the law in state or federal courts, but he doesn’t think the law is unconstitutional.

The law sends “a clear message that Arizona is unfriendly to undocumented aliens,” said Peter Spiro, a Temple University law professor and author of the book “Beyond Citizenship: American Identity After Globalization.”

Brewer’s action wasn’t without protest.

Hundreds of protesters outside the state Capitol shouted that the bill would lead to civil rights abuses, Brewer said critics were “overreacting” and that she wouldn’t tolerate racial profiling.

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