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Opponents of Arizona’s new immigration law threaten protests and lawsuits.

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Arizona Governor: Critics are Overreacting

Opponents of Arizona’s new immigration law threaten protests and lawsuits.

The polls indicate 70% of Arizonans support the toughest state immigration law ever passed, and 60% of Americans favor tougher immigration enforcement, yet protests that began last week in Arizona’s capitol have quickly spread to Tucson, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities.

The list of opponents to Arizona’s action, many threatening lawsuits to stop the new law, received more publicity than those favoring the state’s response to the federal government’s ongoing failure to address the crisis on the Mexican border.

Arizona’s new law grants the state’s law enforcement agencies the authority to enforce federal immigration regulations identical to the duties of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. Swift condemnation, threats and hyperbole from pro-immigrant groups, politicians and the Mexican government followed the signing of the law.

Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the Democratic chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force which backs amnesty for illegal immigrants already in the United States, called the law a “serious civil rights catastrophe” unleashed by “bigoted and hateful Republicans.”

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said the law’s critics are “overreacting” and that the state would make “absolutely certain” the law will be implemented properly and respectfully.

While the critics howled about draconian laws, bigotry and racism, Pinal County Sheriff Paul R. Babeu recited a list of problems citizens and peace officers face—the shootings, kidnappings, smuggling and identity theft by illegal immigrants plaguing Arizona.

“Where is the outrage about this,” he asked?

Threatening legal challenges are the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Coalition of Latino Clergy, the Christian Leaders Legal Defense Fund, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, which represents day laborers throughout the country, the Coalition of Latino Clergy, the Christian Leaders Legal Defense Fund, the Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and the Border Action Network.

Bishop Gerald Kicanas of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson joined Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmstead, Bishop Jim Wall of Gallup, N.M., Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church, and Bishop Kirk Smith of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona to opposing the law.

Democratic Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon vowed to take the fight through the state’s judicial system all the way to the Supreme Court, calling the 70% of Arizonans who support the law “bitter, small-minded and full of hate” who “in no way speak for Arizona.” Gordon called the bill’s author, state Sen. Russell Pearce (R-Dist 18) and Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio, “hateful political opportunists.”

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D.-Ariz.) urged a business convention and meeting boycott of his home state and held a rally in Tucson prior to heading to Phoenix to join the protestors where Nazi symbols and Mexican flags mingled with U.S flags.

“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.

Grijalva is asking federal authorities to block the law by refusing to accept illegal immigrants detained by local enforcement agencies.

Pearce said its “pretty disappointing” that Grijalva and other opponents would call on the federal government to refuse to cooperate with Arizona authorities enforcing federal law.

“It’s outrageous that these people continue to support law breakers over law keepers,” Pearce said.

Rev. Al Sharpton, along with leaders from the National Action Network and the Hispanic Federation, pledged lawsuits and vowed to return to Arizona with freedom walkers to confront police who try to enforce the law when it takes effect 90 days after the state’s legislative session ends.

The protests have been mostly peaceful, but bottles and garbage were thrown at police officers in Phoenix leading to one arrest. A man shooting video at a protest in Phoenix was assaulted by protestors, and last Monday morning authorities found smeared swastikas of refried beans on doors and windows at the state Capitol.

At a town hall meeting in Casa Grande, Ariz., Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.), flanked by a dozen state police chiefs and sheriffs who support his border security plan said, “If the President doesn’t like what the Arizona Legislature and governor may be doing, then I call on the President to immediately call for the dispatch of 3,000 National Guard troops to our border and mandate that 3,000 additional Border Patrol be sent to our border as well.”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina lashed out at Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, calling Reid’s sudden election-year switch from long-planned cap-and-trade climate legislation to immigration reform “a cynical political ploy.”

McCain, running for reelection as is Sen. Reid, said he is taking Arizona’s message back to Washington, D.C., and will move to act in the Senate on the state’s reimbursement funding for the costs of handling illegal immigrants.

McCain, who supported a path to citizenship reforms in the past, told the town hall attendees that amnesty sends the wrong message to immigrants around the world and would not be “logical.”

While the protestors’ and mischaracterizations of the law have made headlines, Utah’s state Rep. Stephen Sandstrom (R.-Orem) announced that he will sponsor the “exact same legislation” in Utah’s 2011 legislative session. Sandstrom does not share President Barack Obama’s concern that other states following Arizona’s lead are “acting irresponsibly.”

Sandstrom’s announcement confirmed former Arizona Senate Majority Leader Alfredo Gutierrez’s concern that other states are following Arizona’s example, but Gutierrez said state action will “unravel federal jurisdiction” over immigration.

Rep. Steve King (R.-Iowa) said, “Arizona stepped up” and he expects the Obama Administration to come up with an immigration reform policy King called “comprehensive amnesty.”

King said the standard of reasonable suspicion set by Arizona’s law, which mirrors federal law, has been upheld by the courts in other states. He called for support of the rule and intent of Arizona’s law “before people go off the deep end.”

Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who heads a government that encourages illegal immigration and has failed to control the drug cartels and rampant corruption, said the law “opens the door to intolerance, hate, and discrimination,”

“The Mexican government condemns the approval of the law” and “the criminalization of migration. Mexico condemns the approval of the law,” Calderon said. “The criminalization of migration, far from contributing to collaboration and cooperation between Mexico and the state of Arizona, represents an obstacle to solving the shared problems of the border region.”

Mexican leaders are calling for a trade and political boycott of the state, but there are reports that some of the 460,000 illegal immigrants are already leaving Arizona because of stricter immigrant enforcement.

Under the new law, Arizona officers will enforce immigration violations that arise from traffic violations or investigations that give probable cause for a stop or detainment and will inquire about immigration status if there is reasonable suspicion of status. Racial profiling is prohibited.

Like the federal law, citizens are required to show identification upon request. A valid drivers license, state, military or federal ID, generally carried by most citizens, are appropriate. Foreign nationals and naturalized citizens are required, and have been, by federal law to present immigration documents.

The costs to the state for processing and jailing the law’s violators are unknown, but estimates put the added costs well beyond most police and sheriff agencies’ already-stretched budgets.

Other provisions outlaws knowingly hiring and transporting day laborers who are illegal immigrants, and allows lawsuits by citizens against law enforcement agencies that do not uphold the law.

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Written By

Robert M. Engstrom, a University of Arizona School of Journalism graduate is a former owner/partner of the Casas Adobes Courier in Tucson, a free-lance contributor to Human Events, the Santa Barbara News-Press and other publications. He spent 30 years as a professional aviator accumulating more than 12,000 flight hours in commercial aviation.

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