Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
Arizona's Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed a controversial immigration bill into law on Friday, calling it "another step forward in protecting the state of Arizona."
The bill, SB 1070, came in response to a spike in violence along the state's portion of the U.S.- Mexico border. It will make it a state crime not to carry proof of legal immigration status and will require Arizona's state and local police to ask about a person's immigration status if there is "reasonable suspicion" that he or she is in the country illegally.
Opponents of the law, including Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), have said it amounts to "institutionalized discrimination and abuse," but Brewer defended her decision as her only choice considering the federal government's failure to secure the border.Brewer also announced she will issue an executive order to develop training for officers to avoid civil rights violations.
"I will not tolerate racial discrimination or racial profiling in the state of Arizona," she said. She also emphasized an amendment to the bill that prevents law enforcement personnel from using a person's race as the only factor in implementing the law. "This protects all of us -- every Arizona citizen and everyone here lawfully," she said.
Before Brewer signed the bill, President Obama called it "misguided" and said the legislation demonstrates why Congress must act soon to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
At a Rose Garden naturalization ceremony Friday for members of the American military, the president warned that the bill "threatened 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."
Tom Saenz, the executive director of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said earlier in the week that Arizona does not have the authority to regulate immigration and predicted SB 1070 would be struck down by federal courts, just as California's Proposition 187 was in the 1990s. "That law was unconstitutional and unlawful and I expect similar challenges to SB 1070," Saenz said.
Brewer confirmed Friday that she had already been notified that the law will be challenged in court on constitutional grounds.