Dozens of demonstrators gathered in front of the Sheraton hotel in downtown Phoenix Thursday to protest SB 1070, an Arizona immigration bill that has been drawing national attention since it passed the state Legislature Monday.
Gov. Jan Brewer was guest speaking at the hotel for the anniversary dinner of Chicanos por la Causa, a nonprofit statewide organization that provides services and programs for communities in areas like education and economic development.
The group of protesters positioned themselves just outside the hotel’s vehicle drop-off area. Police and hotel staff stood at the ready, making sure demonstrators did not enter the building.
Students, locals and out-of-state visitors marched to the beat of various chants, raising their signs in the rain and bouncing to a rhythm.
“Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! SB 1070 has got to go!” they shouted.
SB 1070 would make illegal immigration a crime in Arizona. The bill would allow law enforcement officials to question a person about his or her legal status if “reasonable suspicion” exists.
However, law enforcement officials may not make this judgment based only on race, color or national origin, the bill states. For example, officers will not be able to stop someone based on race, but have to instead “make lawful contact” before asking about legal status.
Present in the crowd of demonstrators were five of the nine college students arrested for chaining themselves to the doors of the State Capitol building Tuesday during another demonstration against SB 1070.
Known by protesters as the Capitol Nine, the students were released early Wednesday under judicial orders to not return to the legislative building.
“Our action was a small part of a larger movement,” said Ruben Palomares, an ASU political science senior and one of the nine students arrested on Tuesday. “That was our contribution, but it’s not over. … The bill, it isn’t vetoed yet. The community is still hurting.”
Joaquin Rios, a second-year law student and protester at the rally, said the bill would fracture the relationship between law enforcement officials and the community.
“The way [the bill] is implemented is going to put a chill on the relationship between law enforcement and the community at large,” he said. “When there is a breakdown in the trust between law enforcement and anybody, regardless of their immigration status, that makes everybody less safe.”
State Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, the bill’s author, appeared on CNN’s “Rick’s List” Wednesday, denying that the legislation expands law enforcement powers.
“Illegal is not a race, it’s a crime,” he said.
Pearce said state lawmakers put a civil rights provision in the bill, making it illegal for law enforcement officials to question someone’s legal status based on his or her skin color.
“It says you cannot use race and ethnicity as an issue,” he said.
Shana Higa, an attorney for Capitol Nine student Leiliana Clark, said SB 1070 is not just about civil rights, but also about the state’s economy.
“It’s going to be on the taxpayer’s dollar — us — to pay for this bill,” she said.
Higa also said that the legislation would overwhelm the state’s justice system.
“It’s going to require more prosecutors, more public offenders,” she said. “There’s never going to be enough room in the jails if this law goes into effect.”
Late Thursday night, Gov. Brewer posted the entire text of the 19-page bill on her Facebook profile.
“Much of the public discussion has been focused on the first two pages,” she said in the Facebook post. “I will do what I believe is right for Arizona.”
Gov. Brewer has until Saturday to veto, sign or let the bill become law without her signature. It’s been widely reported that Brewer will sign the bill today.
After a meeting with ASU’s Residence Hall Association Thursday night, ASU President Michael Crow told students he would send a letter to Brewer opposing the bill, said Athena Salman, a senator in the Undergraduate Student Government who attended the meeting.
Thousands of student protestors also demonstrated before the State Capitol Thursday and more activity is expected today.
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