Lawsuits target Arizona law amid calls for boycotts

By Jonathan J. Cooper and Paul Davenport

Associated Press

Published: Friday, April 30 2010 10:25 a.m. MDT

While the new Arizona immigration law drew protests, news conferences and court lawsuits, a drop house was raided by the Arizona Department of Public Safety along with other law enforcement jurisdictions including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, yielding nine suspected illegal immigrants, shown here, and three suspected human smugglers Thursday.

Ross D. Franklin, Associated Press

PHOENIX — Backlash against a new Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigration is broadening from the political arena as opponents file lawsuits, entertainers and other countries denounce the measure and protesters chant for a boycott of the state at an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game in Chicago.

A lawsuit from 15-year Tucson police veteran Martin Escobar was one of three filed Thursday, less than a week after Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill that critics claim is unconstitutional and fear will lead to racial profiling.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said the federal government may challenge the law, which 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.

Brewer and other backers say the state law is necessary because of the federal government's failure to secure the border and growing anxiety over crime related to illegal immigration.

But chances the federal government will step in this year seemed slim. President Barack Obama, who has called the Arizona law misguided, said lawmakers may lack the "appetite" to take on immigration while many of them are up for re-election and while another big legislative issue — climate change — is already on their plate.

"I don't want us to do something just for the sake of politics that doesn't solve the problem," Obama told reporters Wednesday night aboard Air Force One.

Entertainers entered the fray Thursday, with Colombian singer Shakira visiting Phoenix to meet the city's police chief and mayor amid her concerns the measure would violate human and civil rights.

"It goes against all human dignity." she said of the law.

"Mexican-Americans are not going to take this lying down," singer Linda Ronstadt, a Tucson native, said at a news conference on a lawsuit planned by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the National Immigration Law Center.

And at the Billboard Latin Music Awards ceremony in Puerto Rico, singer Ricky Martin denounced the law, saying it "makes no sense."

About 40 immigrant rights activists gathered outside Wrigley Field in Chicago Thursday, chanting "Boycott Arizona" as the Cubs open a four-game series against the Diamondbacks. A small plane toting a banner criticizing the law circled the stadium. A Cubs spokesman declined to comment, while Arizona manager A.J. Hinch said the team was there to play baseball.

While debate over the law swirled nationwide, Arizona lawmakers Thursday approved modifications to the law. The changes include strengthening restrictions against using race or ethnicity as the basis for questioning by police and specifying that possible violations of local civil ordinances can trigger questioning on immigration status.

The law's sponsor, Republican Sen. Russell Pearce, characterized those changes as clarifications "just to take away the silly arguments and the games, the dishonesty that's been played."

In Phoenix, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio launched his latest crime and immigration sweep Thursday, arresting 60 people, with 39 suspected of being illegal immigrants.

Arpaio, whose tough crackdowns have made him a hero in the anti-illegal immigration community, has conducted 14 of the sweeps since 2008. Critics allege Arpaio's deputies racially profiled Hispanics during the sweeps, but Arpaio says people were approached because deputies had probable cause to believe they had committed crimes. Arpaio has lauded the new law, saying it gives him new authority to detain undocumented migrants who aren't accused of committing any other crimes.

Some Latin nations also entered the debate.

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