Arizona immigration law is revised, but remains controversial

Law protested: Activists rally Friday against Arizona’s new immigration law in Oakland, Calif. They say the law gives enforcement officials unprecedented authority to stop and question suspected illegal immigrants.

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Law protested: Activists rally Friday against Arizona’s new immigration law in Oakland, Calif. They say the law gives enforcement officials unprecedented authority to stop and question suspected illegal immigrants.

PHOENIX — Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday signed a follow-on bill approved by Arizona legislators that makes revisions to the state's sweeping law against illegal immigration — changes she says should quell concerns that the measure will lead to racial profiling.

The law requires local and state law enforcement to question people about their immigration status if there's reason to suspect they're in the country illegally, and makes it a state crime to be in the United States illegally.

The follow-on bill signed by Brewer makes changes that she said should allay concerns of opponents. "These new statements make it crystal clear and undeniable that racial profiling is illegal, and will not be tolerated in Arizona," she said in a statement.

Lawyers whose clients have filed lawsuits challenging the law did not immediately return calls for comment.

The changes include one strengthening restrictions against using race or ethnicity as the basis for questioning by police and inserts those same restrictions in other parts of the law.

Another change states that immigration-status questions would follow a law enforcement officer's stopping, detaining or arresting a person while enforcing another law. The earlier law had referred to a "contact" with police.

Another change specifies that possible violations of local civil ordinances can trigger questioning on immigration status.

Both the law and the changes to it will take effect July 29 unless blocked by a court or referendum filing.

Lawmakers approved the follow-on bill before ending their 2010 session late Thursday.

"There will be no profiling," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, in an interview.

Democrats were critical of the immigration law and its revision.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, said the new wording regarding local civil ordinances could spur complaints of racial profiling based on complaints about cars parked on lawns and debris in yards.

High court to hear older law

The Supreme Court is preparing to hear a challenge to a strict Arizona immigration law — not the new measure that authorizes the police to arrest suspected illegal immigrants, but an earlier law that would punish employers who knowingly hire them.

The court is waiting to hear from the Obama administration and its Solicitor General Elena Kagan this month so they can act on the appeal before the term's end in late June. The case may provide a preview of how the court will rule eventually on the highly contested new law.

The Legal Arizona Workers Act of 2007 was intended to slow illegal immigration by punishing employers who hired undocumented workers. Companies that twice violated the law could lose their license.

Employers, civil rights groups, labor unions, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund went to federal court in Phoenix to challenge the law, arguing that federal law blocks state measures.

They lost, however, before a federal judge and in a 3-0 ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. That in turn led to the pending appeal in the case of U.S. Chamber of Commerce vs. Candelaria.

McClatchy Newspapers

Arizona immigration law is revised, but remains controversial 04/30/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 30, 2010 11:55pm]

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