Immigration law protested by more than 2,500 at state Capitol
Diverse groups join forces for march, demonstration
by Parker Leavitt and Nathan Gonzalez – Apr. 25, 2010 09:16 PM
The Arizona Republic
To the sound of a conch shell and Native American drumbeats, protesters marched to the state Capitol on Sunday to join about 2,500 others in opposition to Arizona’s new immigration law.
The 2.5-mile march through downtown Phoenix was led by the civil-rights advocacy group Nahuacalli Embassy of Indigenous Peoples but included a crowd of about 300 people from varied backgrounds.
“With these unjust laws, we are here to announce to the world our responsibility as human beings to take care of each other,” said Nahuacalli guardian Rafael Reyes.
“There are people in legislative power who have lost their humanity; we’re praying for them,” he said.
Sunday marked the third day of peaceful protest against Senate Bill 1070, which Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law on Friday.
Supporters have dismissed concerns about profiling, saying the law prohibits the use of race or nationality as the sole basis for an immigration check. Brewer has ordered state officials to develop a training course for officers to learn what constitutes reasonable suspicion someone is in the U.S. illegally.
Sunday’s protest drew groups from California, Colorado and Texas.
Eun Sook Lee, executive director of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, said her group bused in 52 protesters from the Los Angeles area.
Lee said about 20 percent of Korean-Americans in the United States are undocumented and are affected by immigration enforcement.
“We may be a small population, but we feel it very intensely,” she said.
The new law, which has sparked protests as far away as Boston, criminalizes the presence of undocumented immigrants and requires police to enforce federal immigration law.
Three U.S. congressmen, two from Arizona’s delegation and one from Illinois, vowed on Sunday to fight the bill in court and called on President Barack Obama to join the legal battle.
“The police do not have an inherent right to carry out immigration enforcement,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who flew to Phoenix for the rally. “It is the responsibility of the federal government.”
A legal battle was one part of a three-pronged strategy laid out by Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., to defeat the bill before it takes effect on July 22, 90 days after Brewer signed it.
Grijalva said he wants Obama to direct federal agencies not to cooperate with the implementation and enforcement of the law, and he asked that organizations around the country refuse to hold conventions or conferences in Arizona until the law has been changed.
“The governor made a huge mistake,” Grijalva said. “By signing this bill, she has nationalized this issue. They terribly, terribly underestimated us.”
The calls for a boycott of Arizona goods, services and tourism have come despite Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon’s plea not to “indict us all” for the state Legislature’s actions.
Gutierrez said, “Arizona, it is time for you to march into the 21st century, or you too will be boycotted in this nation.” About 70 drivers based in California and Arizona last week agreed to stop moving loads into or out of Arizona in protest of the new law, according to media reports.
Gordon, U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Ariz., and Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox also spoke at the protest. Pastor, like several other speakers, delivered much of his speech in Spanish.
While many gathered to chastise the governor and Legislature for the law, the Rev. Warren Stewart thanked lawmakers at an interfaith civil-rights event following the Capitol rally.
“You have awakened the 21st century civil-rights movement,” Stewart told a standing-room-only crowd gathered inside Phoenix’s First Institutional Baptist Church. Attendees jumped to their feet, clapping, as they loudly chanted, “Si se puede” or “Yes we can!”
He encouraged the Hispanic community to continue negotiations with lawmakers that can “strike down SB 1070” and to increase public demonstrations.
“Don’t let this be the last time we come together to defeat SB 1070,” Stewart said. “We must also take political action at the voting booth with thousands of new voters.”
Stewart encouraged boycotts and non-violent disobedience.
“Some of us may have to go to jail,” he said, recalling a group of Arizona State University students arrested last week while protesting inside the Capitol.
ASU student José Luis Leal, 20, is part of a group of protesters who have camped out at the Capitol complex since April 18. Community supporters have provided meals for them, but that doesn’t always keep away thoughts of home and a warm bed, Leal said.
“You think about the cause when you start wanting to go home,” Leal said. “We’re not giving up. We still have hope. Our fight just began.”
Leal, surrounded by a half dozen new friends, said he planned on staying at the Capitol complex until the law was changed.
The youthful protesters’ leadership and resolve drew praise from Gutierrez.
“We have nothing to fear, because what a wonderful generation of new leaders we have here in Arizona,” he said.
Political leaders and activists across the country have weighed in both in support and opposition to the bill, joined Sunday by the Rev. Al Sharpton and Mexican President Felipe Calderón.
Sharpton, speaking Sunday in New York, said that just as freedom riders battled segregation in the 1960s, he would organize “freedom walkers” to challenge the Arizona bill.
“We will go to Arizona when this bill goes into effect and walk the streets with people who refuse to give identification and force arrest,” Sharpton said.
Calderon’s office said in a statement Saturday that “the Mexican government
condemns the approval of the law” and “the criminalization of migration, far from contributing to collaboration and cooperation between Mexico and the state of Arizona, represents an obstacle to solving the shared problems of the border region.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.