Opponents Protest Arizona Immigration Law

Parts of Arizona's immigration law that were not blocked by a federal judge went into effect Thursday. Opponents took to the streets of Phoenix to protest the measure.

Arizona is fighting for its new immigration law meant to keep illegal immigrants out of the state. It asked an appeals court to reverse a federal district judge's decision to block key portions of the measure.

The remaining parts of the law did take effect Thursday, and opponents took to the streets of Phoenix.

Methodist pastor Laurel Scott came from Connecticut. She held a yellow sign that said, "Standing On The Side of Love." Scott marched down Washington Street in downtown Phoenix to fight the Arizona law and keep it from spreading.

"We hoped to see how we can react when inevitably this issue comes up in the New England region and how the church ought to respond," she said.

Dan Moore came from Cincinnati. He says he objects to any law that, he says, stands in the way of comprehensive federal immigration reform, including rights for illegal immigrants.

"I think our presence here is showing them here -- in the heart of the conflict in this country around immigration -- that people aren't afraid and they aren't intimidated by threats of deportation and raids," Moore said.

As the day went on, the march turned into a standing protest in a city park, then into resistance.

Phoenix police in riot gear moved people out of the street. Then, one by one people went back into the street and were arrested in acts of civil disobedience. At least 50 people were arrested throughout the day.

Not many supporters of Senate Bill 1070 showed up, but one of its strongest defenders, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, made his presence felt.

"He's still terrorizing our communities," said Phoenix resident Paul Sanchez.

Sanchez said having only a partial law wasn't stopping Arpaio from continuing his signature crime-suppression operations that target illegal immigrants.

"Therefore, we must continue this struggle until justice is served and until 1070 is no more complete," he said.

In fact, later in the day, protesters moved to the Maricopa County Jail, where they blocked the entrance, and were arrested.

"We're not going to let protesters hold this sheriff and my office hostage because they don't want us to book people into the jail," Arpaio told reporters at his training center.

The sheriff was forced to delay the start of his planned immigration sweep for four hours until things calmed down at the jail. Then, about 200 deputies and volunteer posse members eventually went ahead despite SB1070 being only partially in effect.

"We did pick this day and I said two weeks ago it doesn't matter what the ruling is by the federal judge that we're going to do it anyway," Arpaio said.

He said he was mainly using an older Arizona law that makes it a crime to smuggle immigrants.

Meanwhile, the legal battle over the new law moved to a federal appeals court. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's attorneys filed a motion to lift the temporary restraining order, including the requirement that officers during a stop check the immigration status of anyone they believe is an illegal immigrant.

The state asked the appeals court to hold a hearing no later than mid-September. The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday asked the court for more time to prepare its arguments. Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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