Gov. Jan Brewer said she believes Arizona’s landmark illegal immigration law can survive any legal challenge it faces.
And President Barack Obama, Phoenix and multiple advocacy organizations are already considering testing that theory.
Brewer on April 23 signed into law S1070, regarded as the nation’s strictest anti-illegal immigration bill that makes it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally.
The move punctuated the tension at the state Capitol and as far away as Tucson, where thousands protested the law, which was covered by news organizations across the country.
Brewer said her office worked with Sen. Russell Pearce on S1070 to strengthen the provisions against racial profiling. She also issued an executive order asking the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board to develop training programs for officers on what constitutes a “reasonable suspicion” that someone might be in the country illegally.
“People across America are watching Arizona to see how we implement this law, waiting to jump on even the slightest misstep. Some of those people from outside our state have an interest in seeing us fail. They will wait for a single slip-up, one mistake,” Brewer said at the press conference where she signed S1070. “We cannot give them that chance. We must use this new tool wisely.”
Even before Brewer signed the S1070, Obama called the bill “misguided” and said he instructed the U.S. Department of Justice to examine its legality. He also warned that Congress must pass comprehensive immigration reform or leave the door open to “irresponsibility by others.”
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon put an item on the April 27 City Council agenda, asking the city attorney to prepare a lawsuit challenging the bill.
And Brewer said she has already been notified by several groups that they will challenge the constitutionality of the law.
Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the assistant House minority leader, said she has already spoken with several organizations that plan to file suit over the new law.
“There are countless groups all over the country who are concerned and preparing to litigate, and I feel confident that they will win,” said Sinema, who said she believes S1070 will lead to racial profiling. “Our hope is to get an injunction that will prevent the law from going into effect.”
Brewer’s decision to sign the bill capped a week of silence from the Governor’s Office while protesters flocked to the Capitol, urging her to veto S1070. Flanked by nearly two dozen law enforcement officials, Brewer signed the bill at an Arizona Department of Transportation building several blocks from the Capitol.
“I firmly believe it represents what’s best for our state,” Brewer said before signing S1070. “My signature today represents my steadfast support for enforcing the law.”
The bill requires local law enforcement officers to verify the legal status of anyone they suspect might be in the country illegally, and it allows trespassing charges to be brought against all illegal immigrants. The bill also provides grounds for anyone to file a lawsuit against a local government that is not enforcing laws to prevent illegal immigration.
Pearce, the bill’s sponsor, praised S1070 and said fears that it will lead to racial profiling are unfounded.
“Citizens have legitimate concerns because sometimes the mainstream media have promulgated those fears. I don’t think they have anything to worry about,” Pearce said. “It doesn’t give (police) any more authority to stop you today than they did yesterday.”
Several thousand people, mostly young Hispanics, flooded the Capitol grounds chanting “Shame on you,” while carrying signs that said “alto Arizona, alto SB1070” and “We are human.” It was the largest protest of S1070 so far, although people have been gathering at the Capitol daily since last week.
“This is my third day here,” said Otoniel Ortega, a 19-year-old Phoenix resident who came to the protest with a Mexican flag draped around his shoulders. “Even though I have papers, there are people who don’t who just want to come to this country to create a better life for themselves. And they shouldn’t be treated as criminals.”
Ortega said S1070 clearly targets a specific race of people, and therefore it should not be tolerated as law. “If it wasn’t directed at one race, it wouldn’t be so bad.”
The rally against S1070 took place while Brewer was signing it into law, and hundreds of police were stationed in parking lots nearby to make sure the rally stayed peaceful.
Yellow caution tape was stretched across the courtyard in front of the House and Senate buildings to create a buffer zone between the protesters and a small crowd of people who showed up to support the new law.
At one point, dozens of protesters lined up and locked arms in front of the tape, forming a human barrier that kept the groups separate. One of the links in the barricade, Jose Rodriguez, wore a shirt that said “security” and said he just wanted to demonstrate in support of his community.
“I don’t want to be afraid walking into school, you know?” said the 18-year-old Phoenix resident.
Brewer did not address the president’s comments, but once again lashed out at the federal government for what she said was its failure to secure the border.
The day before signing S1070, Brewer announced that she would provide $10 million in grants, increased National Guard air surveillance and Department of Public Safety assistance to law enforcement agencies along the border.
“Senate Bill 1070 represents another tool for our state to use as we work to solve a crisis that we did not create and the federal government has refused to fix,” Brewer said. “We in Arizona have been more than patient, waiting for Washington to act. But decades of federal inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation.”