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AZ Leaders: Immigration Law Damaging State

PHOENIX - Judge Susan Bolton of Phoenix presided over two hearings on lawsuits challenging Arizona's infamous SB 1070 law, which codifies racial profiling by requiring officers to question and detain anyone they suspect to be undocumented. In response, immigrant, labor and faith leaders organized a press briefing to express their concerns about the effects SB1070 has had on Arizona and the country, and on changes they see coming, including a re-energized Latino voting bloc and more pressure on Congress to move comprehensive immigration reform.

"As during the historic Civil Rights Movement when the federal government had to intervene to stop states that passed discriminatory, prejudiced and unjust laws, Arizona is an unfortunate echo of those times we hoped we had overcome," said Dr. Warren H. Stewart, Sr., senior pastor of the First Institutional Baptist Church in Phoenix, referring to the lawsuit filed by theU.S.  Department of Justice. "SB 1070 is all about 'just us,' rather than justice. All national civil and human rights organizations stand united against this mean spirited, racially profiling law."

Leaders from Arizona spoke of the devastation already wrought on the state by the law, which isn't scheduled to go into effect for another week.  People are leaving the state for other parts of the country, unable or unwilling to cope with a new climate of fear and hate in their state, they said.

"Families are leaving in droves," said Mary Rose Wilcox, Maricopa County supervisor. "I've never felt the racism in Arizona that we're feeling today."

Promise Arizona, a new organization whose principal mission is to develop new leaders to build an Arizona that welcomes everyone, organized the telephonic briefing. Promise Arizona (PAZ) has already helped the community organize a round-the-clock vigil at the state capitol that started the day Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law and will come to an end on July 29, 2010, the day the law is scheduled to go into effect.  PAZ has also launched an ambitious voter registration program statewide that seizes on the passions and frustrations stirred by SB1070, and seeks to convert that energy into a lasting, positive effect.

Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, compared SB1070 to California's 187, which sought to deny public benefits to undocumented immigrants. Durazo said 187 energized Latino voters, and expects SB 1070 will yield similar results but with greater national reach.

"SB 1070 does not stop at the border of Arizona," she said. Durazo helped lead the 2003 immigrant workers freedom ride and is bringing 600 faith, community and labor leaders to Arizona on July 29, the day SB 1070 is scheduled to go into effect.

The call was moderated by Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona. Other participants included: Ian Danley, youth pastor of Neighborhood Ministries and Rudy Lopez, deputy director for politics of the Campaign for Community Change.

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