Arizona immigration law protesters urge US action

* Law allows for status checks on “reasonable suspicion”

* Critics say rule will encourage racial profiling

* Democrats seen shifting focus to reform before elections

PHOENIX, April 25 (BestGrowthStock) – Arizona’s tough new
immigration law has renewed calls for Washington to reform
federal immigration laws, and protesters decried the state’s
action as a violation of U.S. civil rights at a rally on Sunday
in the state’s capital.

Representative Luis Gutierrez, chairman of the
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force, called
the new Arizona rule that police determine if people are in the
country illegally a “serious civil rights catastrophe that
Republicans in Arizona are unleashing on immigrants.”

“I am going there to let the people of Arizona know that
they are not alone in fighting against bigotry and hatred,”
said Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat.

The immigration reform issue’s profile soared after
Arizona’s Republican Governor Jan Brewer on Friday signed into
law a bill to require police to determine if people are in the
country illegally if there is “reasonable suspicion” that is
the case — which critics charge will open the door to racial
profiling.

The measure is expected to spark a legal challenge and is
already a hot issue in the run-up to November congressional
elections and one on which minority Republicans are seen as
more vulnerable.

“I have not seen the Latino community nationwide react in
such a forceful way to an attack on immigrants since 2006, just
after House Republicans passed a measure to criminalize and
deport all undocumented immigrants and their families,” he
added.

President Barack Obama called the Arizona law a “misguided”
effort that showed the need for national reform.
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Senate and House of Representative Democratic leaders said
last week they were considering bringing immigration reform up
for debate ahead of another of Obama’s priorities, climate
change legislation.

Immigration is a bitterly contested issue in the United
States, where some 10.8 million illegal immigrants live and
work in the shadows. But until recently it has been eclipsed at
the national level by issues including healthcare and financial
reform, angering many Latino supporters of Obama.

Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, asked on CNN’s
“State of the Nation” if Hispanic-American voters might be stay
home without a serious effort by Obama to deal with immigration
this year, said that although it was a national issue, “there
is a problem in the Latino community. They see it as a civil
rights issue of their time.”

ARIZONA PROTESTS

Echoing this sentiment, Ramon M. Garcia, an activist who
traveled from Tucson to take part in Sunday’s rally said, “I
feel very strongly that the law is extremely unconstitutional
and racist, and it violates both human and civil rights.”

Jennifer Allen, the executive-director of immigrant rights
group the Border Action Network, said the protest sought to
boost voter registration among Arizonans opposed to the law, in
a bid to turn Brewer out office in the state’s gubernatorial
elections in November.

“Governor Brewer has to be held responsible for signing
what is now an international shame on the state of Arizona,”
Allen told Reuters.

A call seeking comment from Governor Brewer’s office on
Sunday was not immediately returned.

An estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants live in the desert
state, which also straddles the main point of entry for illegal
immigrants crossing into the United States from Mexico.
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(Additional reporting by Tim Gaynor; writing by Eric Walsh
and Jackie Frank)

Arizona immigration law protesters urge US action