Congressmen, Cardinal Mahony, other critics line up to call for veto of Arizona anti-immigrant law

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Kitty Felde/KPCC

MALDEF President Thomas Saenz

L.A.'s Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony has joined the chorus of critics of a proposed Arizona law he calls the most “mean-spirited, and useless anti-immigrant” statute in the country.

A pair of Congressmen and the head of a Latino legal organization called on Arizona’s governor to veto the law.

The Arizona measure would make it a crime to be an illegal immigrant and would require law enforcement personnel to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being undocumented.

Two Democratic congressmen – Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and Raul Grijalva of Arizona – called the measure unconstitutional because the federal government makes and enforces immigration laws.

Thomas Saenz, President of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), said Arizona should learn the lessons of California’s Proposition 187. The 1994 voter-approved measure would have denied health care and education benefits to undocumented immigrants. Saenz said even though a federal court struck down the law, there were serious consequences.

"Some of those consequences included tens of millions of dollars that were spent defending the law in court and collecting information to defend the law in court that ultimately was struck down. So that’s wasted tens of millions of dollars that California and certainly Arizona could use."

Saenz said the California Republican Party felt a severe backlash over its support for the law.

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