PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona’s tough immigration enforcement bill will become law despite being criticized by President Obama as ‘misguided.”
Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill into law on live television on Friday. It takes effect in 90 days after the current legislative sessions in the next several weeks.
Brewer says the law “protects every Arizona citizen.”
The sweeping legislation makes it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally. It would also require local police officers to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are illegally.
Obama said in Washington the measure could violate people’s civil rights and said he’s instructed the Justice Department to see if it is legal.
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“That includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe,” Obama said.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who faces a tough election battle and growing anger in the state over illegal immigrants, scheduled an afternoon news conference Friday to announce her decision.
The sweeping measure would make it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally. It would also require local police officers to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are in the country illegally.
Brewer is under intense pressure from anti-illegal immigration groups and lawmakers in her own party to sign the bill, but has given no indication what she will do.
Hundreds of protesters gathered at the State Capitol complex Friday calling on Brewer to veto the legislation.
Demonstrators have been camped outside the Capitol since the measure passed out of the Legislature on Monday. Their numbers have grown steadily throughout the week, with buses bringing protesters from as far away as Los Angeles.
About a dozen supporters of the measure also gathered.
The bill’s Republican sponsor, state Rep. Russell Pearce of Mesa, said Obama and other critics of the bill were “against law enforcement, our citizens and the rule of law.”
Pearce said the legislation would remove “political handcuffs” from police and help drive illegal immigrants from the state.
“Illegal is illegal,” said Pearce, a driving force on the issue in Arizona. “We’ll have less crime. We’ll have lower taxes. We’ll have safer neighborhoods. We’ll have shorter lines in the emergency rooms. We’ll have smaller classrooms.”
Hundreds of Hispanics protested the legislation at the State Capitol complex on Thursday.
U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat who opposes the measure, said he’s closing his Arizona offices at noon Friday after his staff in Yuma and Tucson were flooded with calls this week, some from people threatening violent acts and shouting racial slurs.
Arizona has an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants and is the state with the most illegal border crossings, with the harsh, remote desert serving as the gateway for thousands of Mexicans and Central Americans.
Other provisions of the bill allow lawsuits against government agencies that hinder enforcement of immigration laws, and make it illegal to hire illegal immigrants for day labor or knowingly transport them.
The bill would take effect 90 days after the current legislative session ends if it becomes law.
Brewer faces a contested Aug. 24 Republican primary election, and one of her opponents, State Treasurer Dean Martin, has called on her to sign the legislation.
Also, the March 27 shooting death of rancher Bob Krentz on his property in southeastern Arizona has brought illegal immigration and border security into greater focus in the state. Authorities believe Krentz was killed by an illegal border crosser.
Since the shooting, Brewer and other officeholders and candidates have toured the state’s border with Mexico. On Thursday, she ordered a reallocation of state National Guard and law enforcement resources and called on the federal government to deploy National Guard troops.
Arizona has previously passed a variety of get-tough measures dealing with illegal immigration.
Brewer’s predecessor, Janet Napolitano, a Democrat who is now President Barack Obama’s Homeland Security secretary, vetoed proposals similar to the bill just approved by the Legislature.
But she signed a 2007 law that imposes sanctions against employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. Other state laws make human smuggling a state crime and restrict illegal immigrants’ eligibility for public services.
The Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund said the bill before Brewer is unconstitutional because regulation of immigration is a federal responsibility.
Others urging Brewer to veto the bill include Catholic bishops, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, and Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for governor. Mexico’s embassy also has voiced concerns about racial profiling.
A Phoenix Law Enforcement Association representative acknowledged that racial profiling can occur but said fears associated with the bill are unfounded.
“We’re not targeting any particular group,” said Levi Bolton, a retired police detective. “Cops are not here to do these things to you.”
Associated Press Writer Julie Pace in Washington contributed to this report.
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