[JURIST] Rallies were held nationwide on Saturday to protest the passage of the recent Arizona immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive] and call for federal immigration reform [JURIST news archive]. Tens of thousands of protesters held rallies and vigils in Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Chicago, and 70 other cities throughout the US. The largest of the protests was held in Los Angeles, where city officials called for a boycott [LAT report] of the state of Arizona, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa [official website] denounced the law, voicing his support for immigrants' rights. Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) [official website] was arrested [NYT report] along with 34 others for staging a sit-in in front of the White House. On Sunday, Obama administration officials increased their criticism of the Arizona law, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile], appearing on NBC's Meet the Press [transcript], saying:
I don't think there's any doubt [that the law invites racial profiling] because … if you're a legal resident, you still have to carry papers. [H]ow is a law enforcement official supposed to know? So, again, we have to try to balance the very legitimate concerns that Americans – not just people in Arizona, but across the country – have about safe and secure borders, about trying to have comprehensive immigration reform, with a law that I think does what a state doesn't have the authority to do, try to impose their own immigration law that is really the province of the federal government.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano [official profile], the predecessor to the incumbent Arizona governor, also criticized the law on Sunday, saying that it is unnecessary [WSJ report] since illegal immigration has been on the decline, and the borders have been under better control during the last 15 months than at any other time.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) [official website] on Friday signed into law a bill [HB 2162 materials; JURIST <a href="http://
jurist.org/paperchase/2010/05/arizona-governor-signs-amendments-to-immigration-law.php">report] designed to clarify the new immigration law. The original bill, signed into law [JURIST report] in April, makes it a crime to be an undocumented immigrant and requires police to question anyone whose immigration status appears suspect. Immigrants unable to verify their legal status could be arrested and jailed for six months and fined $2,500. The new bill includes strengthening restrictions against using race or ethnicity as the basis for questioning by police and specifies that law enforcement officers can only question a suspect's immigration status if the suspect has already been stopped while enforcing another law. Both bills are set to take effect on July 29. Earlier this week, two lawsuits were filed [JURIST report] challenging the new law. President Barack Obama has also criticized the law [JURIST report], calling for federal immigration reform. Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) [official websites] unveiled [JURIST report] a proposal for comprehensive immigration reform in March. The plan entails improving border security, creating a system through which temporary workers would be admitted, introducing biometric identification cards, and instituting a process to legalize illegal immigrants [JURIST news archive] currently residing within the US. It would be the first attempt at immigration reform since the failed [JURIST report] Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill [S 1639 materials] in 2007. At that time, detractors called the bill too lenient on illegal immigrants and said that by granting legal status to illegal aliens, the US was granting "amnesty."