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Civil Rights Leaders To Arizona Governor: Veto Anti-Immigration Law

Washington, DC-Leaders from the nation's leading civil rights organizations sounded the alarm over the misguided immigration bill in Arizona. They pointed to the widespread use of racial profiling that will likely result, the overly broad license it gives police to stop citizens and non citizens, and the high costs for the state's economy and taxpayers. SB 1070, a bill passed by the Arizona legislature in the name of helping law enforcement and making neighborhoods safer, currently sits on the desk of Governor Jan Brewer, who is being urged to veto it because it threatens community safety. The leaders called the Arizona law dangerous and unconstitutional, and it renews the urgency for Congress and the White House to move forward with comprehensive immigration reform.

"This bill throws the door wide open to the racial profiling of Arizona's Latinos, the vast majority of whom are native-born U.S. citizens and legal residents, without doing a single thing to protect the people of Arizona" said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR (National Council of La Raza), the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States. "This bill is extreme and will have horrific consequences. The sponsors of this legislation know all too well that the solution to our nation's legitimate immigration woes lies in Washington, not Phoenix."

The proposed law requires state, county, and municipal employees to ascertain the immigration status of a person if there is "reasonable suspicion" that the person is unlawfully present in the U.S. It also subjects local governments and their personnel to lawsuits by any citizen who feels that the new law is not being enforced sufficiently. The law would impose a $500 fine, other costs, and a misdemeanor charge leading to possible deportation for individuals who could not show proof of legal presence. (For a complete summary of the bill by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, click here.)

"The passage of SB 1070 is a catastrophe in the making that would institutionalize racial profiling in a misguided attempt to fix our broken immigration system," said Wade Henderson, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. "Racial profiling is a counterproductive law enforcement tactic that is also deeply offensive to our constitutional and American values. While immigration policy has often proved a challenge to our country, it should never be used to tarnish the fundamental ideal of equal justice. Governor Brewer should remain faithful to our shared values and veto this bill."

Deborah Lauter of the Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry and protects civil rights for all, concurred. "Laws like this one and the immigration debate that surrounds them have become a flashpoint for racist and neo-Nazi extremist groups that foment bigotry and blame immigrants for all of our country's problems. We in the Jewish community recall the ugly anti-immigrant backlash against our parents and grandparents. We do not want to see that history repeated for anyone and we cannot let the task of fighting it fall on the shoulders of its victims alone."

"The Arizona law is overreaching and will result in racial profiling," added Karen K. Narasaki, President and Executive Director of the Asian American Justice Center. "This law is divisive and unconstitutional."

According to Thomas Saenz, President and General Counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), "The clearest implication of Governor Brewer signing SB 1070 is that there would be multiple legal challenges that would likely hold up implementation of the law and involve the state in an expensive and futile effort to defend a law that unconstitutionally invades the exclusively federal realm of immigration regulation. Added to the severe effects on Arizona's economy and public safety, the likelihood of extensive and successful legal challenges makes SB 1070 an extraordinarily costly exercise in political symbolism and racial demagoguery."

Hilary Shelton of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) mentioned the added pressures that law enforcement will face if this is approved. Racial profiling practices have consistently created distrust between law enforcement and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve. "If signed into law this policy will create serious problems for law enforcement and the communities they protect. This policy will undercut the crucial trust and perception of integrity law enforcement must maintain to be effective at either preventing or solving crime."

For information on the potential costs of this legislation to Arizona, see the Immigration Policy Center's fact sheet. To listen to full telephonic press call please visithttp://www.nclr.org/files/62828_file_ArizonaImmLaw_2010.wma.



Paco Fabián

(202) 785-1670


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