Arizona immigration conflict heats up
Phoenix (AP) — The conflict over a sweeping crackdown on illegal immigration in Arizona intensified Monday as vandals smeared refried beans in the shape of swastikas on the state Capitol's windows.
More protests were planned Monday after thousands gathered this weekend to demonstrate against a bill that will make it a state crime to be an illegal immigrant in Arizona.
Opponents say the law will lead to rampant racial profiling and turn Arizona into a police state with provisions that require police to question people about their immigrant status if they suspect they are here illegally. Day laborers can be arrested for soliciting work if they are in the U.S. illegally, and police departments can be sued if they don't carry out the law.
But supporters of the law, set to take effect in late July or August, say it is necessary to protect Arizonans from a litany of crimes committed by illegal immigrants. Arizona is home to an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants.
Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed the bill on Friday, argues Arizona must act because the federal government has failed to stop the steady stream of illegal immigrants and drugs that move through Arizona from Mexico. She is scheduled to speak about the issue Monday at a Tucson hotel.
The law has revved up the national debate, drawing the attention of the Obama administration and Congress. Obama has called the new law "misguided" and instructed the Justice Department to examine it to see if it's legal.
The law has drawn support from many in Arizona who are fed up with the many problems brought on by illegal immigration.
"If I go to another foreign country, if I go to Mexico, I have to have papers," said Bill Baker, 60, who took time off work at a downtown Phoenix restaurant to sell umbrellas and Mexican and American flags to the largely Hispanic crowd of protesters. "So I don't feel there's anything particularly harsh about the law."
Supporters have dismissed concerns about profiling, saying the law prohibits the use of race or nationality as the sole basis for an immigration check. Brewer has ordered state officials to develop a training course for officers to learn what constitutes reasonable suspicion that someone is in the U.S. illegally.
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 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.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)