Groups protest Ariz. immigration law's enforcement
Thursday , September 20, 2012 - 9:54 AM
PHOENIX— A day after the most contentious provision of Arizona’s immigration law took effect, rallies were held around Phoenix to protest the mandate that civil rights activists say will lead to systematic racial profiling.
More than three dozen activists stood outside a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement building along a busy thoroughfare Wednesday evening. They chanted: "No papers, no fear."
Carlos Garcia, an organizer with the immigrant rights group the Puente Movement, said the strategy is to urge people not to cooperate with immigration enforcement efforts — whether they’re in the country legally or not.
Tempe resident Beatrice Jernigan said friends who are in the country illegally are scared.
"They don’t know what’s going to happen. They’re more cautious," she said. "Some parents who are illegal immigrants are not allowing their kids to participate in afterschool sports."
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled that police could immediately start enforcing the so-called "show me your papers" provision of Arizona’s immigration law. It requires officers, while enforcing other laws, to question the immigration status of those suspected of being in the country illegally.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the provision in June on the grounds that it doesn’t conflict with federal law. Opponents argued that the provision would lead to systematic racial profiling and unreasonably long detention of Latinos, and they unsuccessfully asked Bolton to block it.
Bolton said the law’s opponents were merely speculating on the racial profiling claims. She did leave the door open to challenges if the claims can be proven.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering a request to halt the provision.
In the meantime, an education campaign for illegal immigrants to remain largely silent when they’re pulled over by police is being put into practice across the state.
Leticia Ramirez has been telling people who live in the U.S. without legal permission, like she does, that they should offer only their name and date of birth if they’re pulled over. She also tells them not to carry any documents that show where they were born.
"We want to teach the community how to defend themselves, how to answer to police, how to be prepared, and to have confidence that they’re going to have help," said Ramirez, a 27-year-old from Torreon in the Mexican state of Coahuila.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency that verifies people’s immigration status for local officers, said Wednesday it has not yet seen an influx in the number of calls it receives from local authorities for immigration checks and assistance.
A hotline run by civil rights advocates has been fielding queries from people wanting to know their rights if questioned about their immigration status.
The advocates are asking police departments not to enforce the provision, as a way to gain cooperation from immigrants in reporting crimes. But not enforcing the requirement could expose the agencies to lawsuits from people claiming authorities aren’t complying with the law.
Outside the Immigration and Customs building in Phoenix, Prescott college student Brooke Bischoff said she doubts provisions prohibiting racial profiling will succeed.
She said testimony during a recent trial involving racial profiling accusations against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office indicated that training to avoid discriminatory practices was "cursory."
Advocates also planned to gather Wednesday to address the Phoenix City Council about their concerns about the law, and a march to the Maricopa County jail in downtown Phoenix was scheduled for Saturday.
State lawmakers passed the sweeping immigration measure in 2010 amid voter frustration with Arizona’s role as the country’s busiest illegal entry point. Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah have since adopted variations of Arizona’s law.
Republican Gov. Jan Brewer says the law won’t cure the state’s immigration woes but it could push the federal government to act on immigration reform.
Fonseca reported from Flagstaff, Ariz.