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By Miriam Raftery

May 1, 2010 – Across America, hundreds of thousands participated in May Day marches and rallies to protest Arizona’s new immigration law, which requires that law enforcement officers demand papers proving legal status from anyone suspected of being in the U.S. illegally. Supporters say the law is necessary to stem the flow of illegal immigration, but opponents fear it will lead to civil rights violations, illegal detention of legal residents, and a climate of intimidation.


“I am not an immigrant. My lineage goes back a couple of hundred years,” said Hugh Moore, an El Cajon resident who turned out to join today’s May Day rally at the federal building in downtown San Diego. “I went because the Arizona law is in violation of the Constitution of the United States. I am a veteran and I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution.”

In Los Angeles, an estimated 60,000 marched for immigration rights.


In San Diego, around 1,500 marched from Chicano Park to the federal building. Although the May Day rally was originally planned as a labor demonstration, virtually all of the signs visible addressed immigration issues—including many urging a boycott of Arizona. About 50 to 100 counter-demonstrators, led by local Minutemen, rallied in support of the Arizona law.


President Barack Obama has denounced the law as threatening "our core values" as Americans. He has asked federal attorneys to look into options to block implementation of the law.


California State and federal office holders as well as local candidates have also spoken out on Arizona’s new law.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called Arizona’s measure “a mess” and said he would “never do that in California.” He called on the federal government to enact immigration reform to track who is in America, conduct background checks, and “let people come in legally and work here because we need the work,” instead of forcing law enforcement officials to ask for proof of citizenship.


But Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) praised the bill, which he has called “a fantastic starting point.”


In a video broadcast at a Ramona tea party rally, Hunter said he would also support deporting U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants. “We’re not being mean,” said Hunter, who backs a House bill to deny citizenship to babies born to undocumented immigrants. “We’re just saying it takes more than walking across the border to become an American citizen.”


Citizenship is guaranteed by the 14th amendment in the U.S. Constitution to all children born in America, so Congress has no power to change that right absent a Constitutional amendment ratified by the states.


Ray Lutz, the Democrat running against Hunter, believes the Arizona bill goes too far by having law enforcement responsible for pulling people over based on whether or not they may be citizens. “Most of the law enforcement people that I’ve talked to here say they don’t want it,” he told East County Magazine, adding that the law will prevent people from coming forward as witnesses to crimes for fear of deportation.


“What’s not talked about here is the underlying problem,” Lutz observed. “The reason this whole tidal wave of immigration started in the ‘90s was because of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).” Under U.S. agricultural policies, prices on corn and other crops has been heavily subsidized, so that when NAFTA was enacted, U.S. farmers flooded the Mexican market with food products priced so cheaply that they undercut prices for Mexican farm goods, he noted.


“It just decimated farming down there and immediately put about 2 million farmers out of work, and others who were reliant on the farmers,” said Lutz. “These are some of the 12 million undocumented workers who had to migrate north to the U.S. because we killed off their economy.” He calls for modification of NAFTA to halt the dumping of cheap food in Mexico, enabling Mexican farmers to make a living in their homeland once again.


Lutz supports ID cards and other national reforms, but took issue with Hunter’s stance on denying citizenship to children of immigrants. “If you won’t take care of babies inside our borders, what’s right to life about that?” he asked, noting that the 14th amendment was adopted following efforts to deny freed slaves the right to vote after the Civil War and ties in to the historic Dred Scott decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. “I think it would be very hard to back out of that,” he said.

Political candidates supporting the law include Republican U.S. Senate candidate Paul Campbell and Congressman Brian Bilbray (R- San Diego).


On MSNBC’s Hardball TV program, Bilbray said he doesn’t think the law will lead to racial profiling. Bilbray said "trained professionals" can spot illegal immigrants by the way they're dressed and how they behave. "There's different type of attire, there's different types of ---- right down to the shoes, right down to the clothes."


His remarks drew sharp criticism from his two Democratic opponents.


“For him to suggest that any person, based on the clothes or shoes they wear, could be identified as an illegal immigrant is outrageous,” said Democratic rival Francine Busby, a member of the Cardiff School Board, who called Bilbray’s remarks “reckless.”


Attorney Tracy Emblem, who is also running for Bilbray’s seat in Congress, said Bilbray demonstrated a “lack of critical thinking skills” and added that the Arizona law “opens the doo to civil rights violations because police would have the duty to detain and incarcerate until a person could produce documentation of citizenship. In other words, many innocent people could get swept up in the net...We must say no to a police/prison state.” She called on Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform and find ways to insure that Mexico deals with “its economic problems related to poverty, employment, healthcare, drug corruption and democratic governance,” among other points.


Congressman Bob Filner (D-Chula Vista) blasted Arizona’s immigrant law as well in a statement read at a rally Friday at the University of San Diego. “Racial profiling, requiring people to carry identification papers—that is the mark of a police state! The law isn’t just misguided, it is dangerous,” he warned. “It threatens to provoke racial discrimination, community discord and undermines the mission of law enforcement. That’s why the U.S. Justice Department should immediately seek an injunction to stop the Arizona law from being enforced.”


CBS News reports that recent polls show 60% of Arizonans support their new law. The recent shooting death of a Sheriff's deputy by a suspected unlawful immigrant has left emotions running high in the Grand Canyon state, where numerous drug-related kidnappings have occurred in Phoenix.


But the Mayor of Phoenix plans to sue to overturn the law, which he believes will hurt the economy. Nationally, calls for a boycott of Arizona are growing. A website gathering petition signatures for a boycott has been established at Mexico has issued a warning to its citizens not to travel to Arizona, cautioning that even those with legal status in the U.S. could be subject to detention without documentation. Some merchants fear loss of travelers’ and tourism dollars will further harm the state’s economy.


The Major League Baseball Players Association has called for repeal or modification of the law, which MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner says “could have a negative impact on hundreds of Major League players who are citizens of countries other than the United States.”

Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the nation’s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese in Los Angeles, concludes that the law is mean-spirited and has likened the measure to Naziism. "American people are fair-minded and respectful. I can't imagine Arizonans now reverting to German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques whereby people are required to turn one another in to the authorities on any suspicion of documentation," the Cardinal wrote on his blog site. "Are children supposed to call 911 because one parent does not have proper papers? Are family members and neighbors now supposed to spy on one another, create total distrust across neighborhoods and communities, and report people because of suspicions based upon appearance?"


Two Texas legislators have said they would introduce similar measures.


But Texas Governor Rick Perry has indicated that like California Governor Schwarzenegger, he would not support such a bill because some aspects of the law “turn law enforcement officers into immigration officials by requiring them to determine immigration status during any lawful contact with a suspected alien,” Perry concluded, “taking them away from their existing law enforcement duties, which are critical to keeping citizens safe."


At least two major California cities, San Francisco and Los Angeles, are considering adopting resolutions to boycott Arizona.   San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders has told 10 News that he would not introduce a similar measure here.

But Councilman Ben Hueso, who represents a heavily Hispanic district, may bring the matter before the San Diego City Council.  "That's not something I would shy away from," he said. 

Political experts said Hueso, who represents a largely Hispanic district, is in the best position to introduce a resolution.


Mesa College professor Carl Luna suggested that San Diego's growing Hispanic population may be poised to flex its political muscle.


"Despite a large Latino population, immigration issues never quite captured the imagination of the city power establishment," he concluded. "Maybe it's time it does."

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