How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

What the Supreme Court's review of the SB 1070 case means

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The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., July 2008

After a federal judge in Arizona blocked portions of the state's then-new SB 1070 anti-illegal immigration law last year, among other things putting on hold a provision that would empower police to check the immigration status of people suspected of being in the country illegally, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vowed to fight the decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And it's there that the case has now wound up.

The high court announced this morning that it would review the federal government's challenge to the law, which since its partial enactment in July of last year has led to a series of copycat laws in other states - and subsequent legal challenges to each.

The Supreme Court justices won't be weighing the merits of SB 1070, but rather the merits of the lower federal court judge's decision to block parts of it from being enforced pending a constitutional challenge from the Obama administration. The federal lawsuit, filed in early July of last year as SB 1070 was set to take effect, asserts that immigration law is the domain of the federal government and that it pre-empts attempts by states to set their own immigration rules.

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The chimichanga as symbol of a new Arizona?

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Oh Arizona, you give and give. The latest news with a Phoenix dateline involves not a recall election, a strict new bill or immigration sweeps, however, but the chimichanga. The New York Times reports that a Phoenix-based Mexican food chain is circulating a petition to make the deep-fried burrito the official state food.

It would be in interesting company among official state items. Among the other things Arizona has made state icons are the bolo tie as the official state neckwear, the saguaro blosson as the official state flower, and the Colt revolver as the official state gun.

Now for the good part:

Some state lawmakers see naming the chimi as the official food as a good way of helping Arizona refurbish its tattered image, while others argue that the state has more pressing priorities. Gov. Jan Brewer, who would be the one to sign a chimichanga bill if it cleared the Legislature, has told reporters that she enjoys chimis but has not declared whether she would be willing to immortalize them.

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Is the Russell Pearce recall election a referendum on Arizona's immigration politics?

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Russell Pearce, the Republican Arizona state senate president whose SB 1070 anti-illegal immigration law continues to inspire similarly strict immigration laws in other states, could lose his seat to a recall Tuesday. He'll be running against a challenger, fellow Republican Jerry Lewis, in the state's first-ever recall election involving a state lawmaker.

And while Pearce's hardline stance on immigration isn't the sole basis of the effort to oust him, the outcome of tomorrow's election is being regarded by many as a popular vote on his controversial immigration politics - and on the public image of Arizona that SB 1070 and other proposed immigration crackdowns there since have helped create.

As the polls prepare to open, several news analyses have examined what the recall vote means in terms of Pearce's and Arizona's immigration policies and politics:

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From Arizona, with opinions: Readers respond to immigration bills

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Readers' comments are usually vary in length and flavor, but yesterday I received two from Arizona natives that begin similarly and are almost mirror images, though they present two very different Grand Canyon State points of view.

Arizona, of course, has returned as ground zero in the immigration debate (not that it ever relinquished this title) after a state senate committee gave the green light to a series of bills Tuesday night that make last year's partly-implemented SB 1070 seem mild. Among other things, the bills seek to deny U.S. citizenship to children born to undocumented immigrants, bar undocumented immigrants from public services including basic ones like registering a car and getting a marriage license, and make hospitals check patients' immigration status. And now a fed-up group of Pima County residents wants to secede.

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Christian church confused for mosque, draws opposition

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The dome under construction at the La Luz Del Mundo church in Phoenix, October 2010

Oh, Arizona.

This latest story out of the Grand Canyon State involves not undocumented immigrants, but Christians erroneously believed to be Muslims.

KPHO, a Phoenix CBS affiliate, reports that "concerned neighbors" have been phoning leaders of the local La Luz del Mundo (The Light of the World) church over a new church building under construction that has a large dome, and which the concerned townsfolk have mistaken for an Islamic mosque. Church members have been forced to put up a banner on the dome, pointing out that it is a Christian house of worship they are building.

The story is yet another example of raging anti-Muslim fervor, the craze that is sweeping the nation, from Temecula (where residents have protested the building of an actual mosque) to New York City (no need to explain) to Oklahoma, where voters overwhelmingly approved a state initiative banning Islamic law, though there is no known instance of it ever having been cited in Oklahoma courts.

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