US & World

Arizona governor considers changing immigration law

Protesters block the entrance to the offices of controversial Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio before being arrested by sheriff's deputies in Phoenix on July 29, 2010.
Protesters block the entrance to the offices of controversial Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio before being arrested by sheriff's deputies in Phoenix on July 29, 2010.
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

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PHOENIX — The fight over Arizona's immigration law showed no signs of letting up Friday as the federal judge who blunted its force faced threats and the Republican governor who signed it considered changes to address any faults.

(Audio of KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez talking with Peter Morales of the Unitarian Universalists Association about members' arrests during Thursday's demonstrations.)

In the days since U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton put on hold the most controversial parts of the law, hundreds of e-mails and phone calls - including some threats - have poured into the courthouse.

Seventy people have been arrested in demonstrations.

And a fund set up to help defend the new law added $75,000 Wednesday alone, giving the state more than $1.6 million to get Bolton's ruling overturned.

Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed the law and appealed the ruling, has vowed not to back down, saying she'll challenge Bolton's decision all the way to the Supreme Court.

But Brewer said Friday she'd consider changes to "tweak" the law to respond to the parts Bolton faulted.

"Basically we believe (the law) is constitutional but she obviously pointed out faults that can possibly be fixed, and that's what we would do," Brewer told The Associated Press. She said she's talking to legislative leaders about the possibility of a special session, but said no specific changes had been identified.

In her temporary injunction, Bolton delayed the most contentious provisions of the law, including a section that required officers to check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws. Bolton indicated the federal government's case has a good chance at succeeding in its argument that federal immigration law trumps state law.

But she allowed police to enforce the law's bans on blocking vehicle traffic when seeking or offering day-labor services and a revision to the smuggling ban that lets officers stop drivers if they suspect motorists have broken traffic laws.

Bolton also let officers enforce a new prohibition on driving or harboring illegal immigrants in furtherance of their illegal presence.

Democrats scoffed at Brewer's desire to change the law, with a key House minority leader calling it laughable.

"Why would we help her?" asked Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Phoenix. "This bill is so flawed and clearly a federal judge agrees," Sinema said.

House Speaker Kirk Adams said there would be little support among fellow Republicans to weaken the law.

Attorneys have begun reviewing the law to identify possible changes, he said: "It's embryonic."

Even though the law's critics scored a huge victory with the decision, passions among hundreds of immigrant rights supporters still flared at demonstrations near the federal courthouse in downtown Phoenix after the parts of the law that weren't blocked took effect Thursday.

Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Boston, said his group had come to Thursday's protests with the intention of getting arrested. By taking such a confrontational stance against the current policy, they hoped their actions would register with legislators who make any future policy decisions.

"We feel compelled to stand with immigrant families," Morales said. "we are against the systematic dehumanization that is happening here."

Morales said his group plans to attend pro-SB 1070 rallies in the state in the days to come. "This is a struggle beyond public policy. We need to change the hearts and minds of people to get beyond fear."

Federal officials in charge of court security wouldn't say whether anyone made a death threat against Bolton and wouldn't provide specifics of the threats they were examining, but said a majority of the e-mails and phone calls to the judge's chambers and the court clerk's office are from people who want to grouse about her ruling, officials said.

"We understand that people will vent and have a First Amendment right to express their dissatisfaction. We expect this," said David Gonzales, the U.S. Marshal for Arizona. "But we want to look at the people who go over the line."


Associated Press Writer Amanda Lee Myers contributed to this report.
KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez contributed to this report.
© 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.