As protesters rallied and cried outside the State Capitol building Friday, Gov. Jan Brewer signed a piece of legislation that has divided Arizona residents and drawn criticism from the White House.
Brewer signed SB 1070, a measure that will make illegal immigration a state crime. The controversy surrounding the bill is mostly focused on the first few lines of the text, which states that upon lawful contact, a law enforcement official must make a “reasonable attempt” to determine a person’s immigration status. Some say this is a form of racial profiling.
Protesters, both for and against the legislation, gathered at the Capitol, chanting at each other across a line of yellow caution tape.
“We have rights!” shouted anti-1070 demonstrators.
“No you don’t!” the pro-group responded.
In a statement released Friday by Brewer, the governor said she listened to both sides and considered the significance of the new law.
“I’ve decided to sign Senate Bill 1070 into law because, though many people disagree, I firmly believe it represents what’s best for Arizona,” the statement said.
Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox said the legislation makes Hispanics “second-class citizens.”
“And we will not stand for that,” she said.
Wilcox called Brewer a “cold-hearted woman” for signing the bill.
Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, said the governor’s motive for signing the bill was political.
“She is after all facing a primary election in August,” Sinema said. “The political party she represents has chosen this as the issue to divide Arizona’s people.”
Earlier Friday, President Barack Obama called Brewer’s legislation “misguided” in a speech at the White House. Obama said the bill threatens the trust between law enforcement officials and community members.
“I’ve instructed members of my administration to closely monitor the situation and examine the civil implications of this legislation,” he said.
Former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano currently serves in Obama’s administration as secretary of homeland security.
ASU President Michael Crow said in a letter sent to Brewer Friday that the bill takes a “wrong-headed approach” that could lead to a deterioration of civil relations in Arizona.
“By enacting this bill, Arizona sends a signal to the rest of the world that, as a result of deficient national immigration policy, it is willing to impose egregious state laws on the citizens of Arizona solely for the purpose of demonstrating the depth of its frustration with the stresses and strains that it attributes to the failures of the federal government,” Crow said.
Sinema said legal action will be taken against the legislation.
“This legislation violates the supremacy clause of the United States,” she said. “It violates the equal protection clause of the United States. And it violates the due process clause of the United States.”
Several groups and government bodies like the American Civil Liberties Union and the City of Phoenix have already threatened to bring legal action against the state.
At the Capitol, police provided caution tape to “peacekeeping” volunteers wearing yellow T-shirts with the words “security.” The caution tape separated the two demonstration groups.
The number of anti-1070 protesters greatly outnumbered those in favor, at least 20 to one. Police stood among the pro-legislation crowd protecting the smaller group from being overwhelmed by the hundreds of students and community members against the legislation.
College, high school and junior high students were present in the crowd.
“I don’t see why they should treat us like criminals,” said Omar Lopez, a Hispanic student from Phoenix College. “We’re just here for a better life.”
Lopez said his parents were undocumented immigrants.
Martha Payin, a Latina woman from Phoenix, was in favor of the legislation’s passage — one of the few Latinos who rallied in favor of the bill.
About an hour before the bill’s signing, Payin took criticism from her peers for being on the pro-1070 side of the caution tape.
“It’s not about being brown,” she shouted to Michael Walker, a white man from Glendale against the bill, who stood at the edge of the caution tape. An argument broke out between the two.
“It’s about the word ‘illegal,’” Payin said. “Do you know what illegal means?”
“Tell me,” Walker responded without answering her initial question. “Am I citizen? How do you know? Show me how you know that I am a citizen or not.”
At least a couple of confrontations took place between police and protesters early in the afternoon.
A small conflict began around 2 p.m. after one man started antagonizing anti-1070 protesters. As police stepped in and led the man away, the protesters started throwing water bottles at the man. The tossing of bottles sparked anger in the crowd, and a swarm of protesters ran after the man and the police officers leading him away. Police in riot gear stepped in as the protesters poured out onto Jefferson Street, just west of 17th Avenue.
Peacekeeping volunteers came in and formed a human barrier between the crowd and police. They eventually pushed the crowd back onto the Capitol lawn.
Another incident broke out later in the afternoon after a man reportedly stole a cart from a vendor who was selling ice cream to demonstrators. The police arrested the man and led him away. Protesters again followed the man, threw water bottles and flooded out onto the intersection of 17th Avenue and Adams Street. Riot police moved in. Protesters blocked traffic and peacekeeping volunteers eventually pushed the crowd back toward the capitol lawn.
No injuries were reported in either protest. At least one man — the man who stole the ice cream cart — was arrested, and another was detained. It was unclear if there were any other arrests.
More protesting is expected to take place throughout the weekend. The bill will become law in 90 days.
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